Questions tagged [history]

History of computers, digital electronics, hardware manufacturers and software developers.

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7
votes
1answer
106 views

Which versions of TECO had merged G- and Q-registers?

In this answer to 'Why were TECO variables called Q-registers?' I reference documentation indicating that the original Q-registers were separate from the same-named G-registers. (I.e., X1 would store ...
10
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6answers
2k views

How prevalent is the CR (classic MacOS) line ending today? [closed]

In a parser library I am maintaining, I stopped recognizing singular Carriage Return characters as line endings to reduce complexity in the tokenizer's position tracking code, a perennial source of ...
5
votes
1answer
190 views

What was the first control display unit with selector keys around the display?

If not the first, then the one that became popular first (in any application; this is not limited to aviation systems). A control display unit, CDU for short, is fairly common in aviation, perhaps ...
27
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3answers
3k views

Odyssey game console: what's the deal with "English Control"?

I've just read about the original Magnavox Odyssey console. Interesting story. But what I'm wondering about are the game controllers, and in particular the knob labeled as "English". This ...
3
votes
1answer
452 views

Were any 680x0 features specifically requested by a customer?

The Motorola 680x0 processor family was used in a variety of systems, including Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Sharp X68000, and Sinclair QL systems. Had any of these customers wanted a ...
8
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1answer
299 views

How did the HP 9100 use base 14?

Wikipedia's page on numeral systems claims: 14 Tetradecimal Programming for the HP 9100A/B calculator and image processing applications; pound and stone Exactly how did the HP 9100A/B use base 14? ...
15
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4answers
6k views

What is the source of the Apple logo?

What is the source of the Apple logo? I heard that it was a reference to Alan Turing, who died of cyanide poisoning after eating an apple.
18
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3answers
5k views

Which language had the first scanf?

As a companion to the question "What was the first programming language to have 'printf'?", which language had the first scanf? It doesn't have to be literally called scanf, but I am looking ...
25
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3answers
7k views

In what ways was the Soviet STRELA computer "designed to function during a nuclear winter"? Or at least parts of it?

From Strela computer: Strela computer (Russian: ЭВМ Стрела, arrow) was the first mainframe computer manufactured serially in the Soviet Union, beginning in 1953. This first-generation computer had ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Transition from static to dynamic shared libraries

A static library, also known as an archive, is one intended to be statically linked. Originally, only static libraries existed. Static linking must be performed when any modules are recompiled. (From ...
45
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3answers
5k views

How did varargs in C develop?

C has a feature for variadic functions, my understanding is this feature was originally a hack, relying on the simple stack-based parameter passing used by early C implementations and that some time ...
10
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1answer
271 views

What sort of intermediate representation did the first Fortran compiler use?

Proebsting's Law asserts that improvements to compiler technology double the performance of typical programs every 18 years, but even granted that this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it's not really ...
11
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1answer
1k views

What computer programs did Grace Hopper work on during World War II?

Admiral Grace Hopper was a computer pioneer. She wrote the first linker and one of the first compilers; was a proponent of human-readable computer languages, machine-independence of languages, and ...
39
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11answers
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What's the origin of terminating strings by setting the high bit of the last character?

I was looking at a hex dump of the ROM BASIC from the original IBM PC and found some byte strings like this (ASCII dump is on the right): 50 52 49 4e d4 9d 4c 49 53 d4 9e 50 4f d3 1b 45 PRIN..LIS.....
15
votes
1answer
2k views

What was the first programming language to use `+` for string concatenation?

Many reasonably modern programming languages (Java, Python, C++, Ruby) use + to represent string concatenation. "A" + "B" is the string "AB". Languages with a more ...
7
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2answers
1k views

What are the "other crontabs" that /etc/crontab refer to? [closed]

The /etc/crontab file on ubuntu has a header that reads: # /etc/crontab: system-wide crontab # Unlike any other crontab you don't have to run the `crontab' # command to install the new version when ...
20
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6answers
5k views

Why did some video games apparently use "interlaced" video modes?

I was under the impression that "interlaced" video modes was only a thing for remote television content because it saved bandwidth to only send 50% of the data to the homes, so you could fit ...
3
votes
1answer
222 views

Why were procedure parameter specifications optional in the ALGOL 60 Revised Report?

In Algol 60 procedure declarations, the 'specification' part was optional for by-name parameters. The specification is what gives (loosely speaking) the type of parameter - whether it's real, integer,...
16
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4answers
3k views

Why does Pascal have numeric labels?

Pascal was intended, in part, to be a simple language to implement. Some of the design decisions reflecting this are Declarations/definitions must be given in a strict order (labels, constants, types,...
5
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0answers
227 views

What was the first device to "beep" in lieu of tactile feedback to button presses?

I'm splitting this question off of When was beeping invented, in a user interface sense? because I think it's more answerable on its own and I suspect likely to still be computing-related. At some ...
5
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2answers
423 views

When was beeping invented, in a user interface sense?

UPDATE: thanks all, lots of good discussion but I think this question is a bit too vague to be answerable. I'm casting my own close vote against it and will re-ask a more specific one. Specifically I ...
-6
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4answers
353 views

Is UTF-8 responsible for a lot of the cpu-needed bloat in the last ten to fifteen years? [closed]

Some say UTF-8 was the best solution. The price you pay is that it basically makes all parsing optimizations that rely on a fixed relationship of byte offset to character position unusable. Compilers, ...
30
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3answers
10k views

Why do some people say PHP was "Pretty Home Page"? Was it once PHP's real name?

"Pretty Home Page" is not found in official PHP history. But I saw several people call PHP that way on the internet, and even in some books, teaching & publications: An Experimental ...
36
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3answers
3k views

Why does make only accept tab-indentation?

The syntax for Makefiles requires that indented lines start with a tab, and not a space. So far as I can tell, this has been the case even for very early implementations of make. But even modern-day ...
3
votes
2answers
277 views

Did SVN copy from CVS the feature of allowing each sub-folder to be at a different revision?

SVN allows each sub-folder in a working directory to be at a different revision. SVN used to put a folder (".svn") for metadata into each sub-folder, just like CVS did. I wonder if SVN also ...
42
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5answers
8k views

Why didn't C++ specify filename extensions?

Apparently even today there is no single "official" standard for C++ file extensions. There are just common conventions. To me this stands out as an anomaly... file extensions are heavily ...
11
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3answers
2k views

What was the first programming language, other than Lisp, to have “short-circuiting” Boolean expressions?

(This question is, of course, another thrilling installment of “The history of expression evaluation”; see the previous episodes here and here.) In many programming languages, the Boolean operators ∧ ...
56
votes
4answers
11k views

Why were single quotes ('…') chosen for characters, and double quotes ("…") for strings?

In C, '' is used to denote a character, while "" is used to denote a string. Why was this syntax chosen? I tried to research this using Wikipedia’s Timeline of Programming Languages along ...
33
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3answers
5k views

What was the first programming language to support “operator chaining”?

The Python language has a neat feature: An expression like x < y <= z is interpreted, according to mathematical convention, as equivalent to x < y and y <= z. Operands are evaluated only ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Is it true that "do ... done" blocks in Bash do not end with "od" because od existed before Bash/Bourne shell?

The Wikipedia page about od says: Since it predates the Bourne shell, its existence causes an inconsistency in the do loop syntax. Other loops and logical blocks are opened by the name, and closed by ...
13
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4answers
615 views

Did vacuum-tube computers ever reach a physical limit to their speed?

Grace Hopper famously used 30 cm pieces of wire as a teaching aid to show how far signals can travel in one nanosecond. Indeed, the speed of light has become a limitation for many computers. The ...
10
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2answers
1k views

Were there any NMOS (or PMOS) processors that could tolerate a stopped clock?

Early microprocessors often used NMOS or PMOS transistor technology (see this question for their use in early Intel chips). Techniques such as implementing registers with dynamic memory cells (...
8
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1answer
326 views

Who called it "microchip" first?

We all know how Kilby at TI and Noyce at Fairchild invented the integrated circuit. But who called it microchip? Chip?
105
votes
7answers
24k views

Why was `!` chosen for negation?

It seems that the use of the exclamation mark ! to denote negation started with the C programming language (as far as I can tell from my Google research). Nowhere though is mentioned who and why chose ...
11
votes
2answers
609 views

What was the first programming system to place no limitations on the length of identifiers?

Historically, interpreters and compilers have limited the length of identifiers. For example, FORTRAN I and II considered only six characters to be significant, and LISP 1.5 forbid symbol names to ...
11
votes
1answer
447 views

What was special about "Vulcan" - the CP/M database program?

The Vulcan DBMS for CP/M micros was originally developed in 8080 assembly language by a contractor working for Jet Propulsion Lab, based on an earlier JPL mainframe program. This code went on to be ...
13
votes
0answers
360 views

When and where was the ‘dotted sequence of integers’ version numbering scheme invented?

Probably the most widespread software version numbering scheme in use today takes the form of a dotted sequence of integers. Variants of this scheme usually share the following characteristics: ...
7
votes
1answer
483 views

Did the original Japanese Tamagotchi device really die *completely* (forever) if the digital pet died? [closed]

Ever since 1997, I've had this "factoid" in my head that the original release of Tamagotchi in Japan had no "reset" feature, and you could not remove the batteries to reset it ...
9
votes
1answer
627 views

What was the first compiler/interpreter/assembler to indicate problematic columns in diagnostic messages?

These days, most compilers and interpreters seem to provide the following in diagnostics: A description of the problem The name of the source file A line number A relevant position within the line ...
6
votes
0answers
192 views

Was there another dialect of Pascal with this range checking feature?

I've decompiled yet another Pascal compiler for the BESM-6. While it does not implement the full language (for example, packed records and arrays are not implemented, helper routines SEL and INS are ...
12
votes
6answers
641 views

Are there any primary sources for the “passing constant by reference” behavior in old Fortran compilers?

Occasionally I have heard references to a peculiarity of certain (old) Fortran compilers, with regards to subprogram argument passing. Here is an example, from an answer to a Stack Overflow question: ...
12
votes
2answers
543 views

According to Steve Jobs in 1981, what computer privacy issue was "very very hot in the media" at that time?

In an 1981 interview with Steve Jobs, he says the following: There is a common conception that people have of computers which is more along the lines of "1984"; very large, very centralized ...
10
votes
2answers
805 views

How widely used were C1 control codes?

As ASCII is a 7-bit code set, and ISO 646 cannot satisfy needs of many languages, variable-length ISO 2022/EUC was developed, which introduced C1 control codes. However, C1 have hardly left any ...
44
votes
7answers
7k views

Who invented the clipboard?

Just as the wheel, the clipboard on a computer is indeed a very useful invention! Who came up with such bright idea? Additionally, did it exist on non-graphical environments as well ?
34
votes
8answers
6k views

Why were relays prevalent in early 1940s computers when vacuum tubes were also available?

Many of of the computers built in the 1940s used relays for logic (see here and here): Bell Labs Model I, 1940 Bletchley Park Bombe, 1940 Zuse Z2, 1940 Zuse Z3, 1941 Bell Labs Model II, 1943 Bell ...
7
votes
4answers
665 views

Have there been any studies comparing the reliability of relay versus vacuum tube computers?

Computers of the first half of the 20th century generally used relays or vacuum tubes as their logic elements. Each of these components has there own methods of failure, but relays and tubes have a ...
9
votes
1answer
499 views

Which pre-ANSI C compilers allowed a conditional expression as Lvalue?

Soon after learning the C language in the late 80s, before an ANSI C compiler was available on the machines I was using, it occurred to me to check if the following compiles int a, b, c; foo() { (...
3
votes
3answers
337 views

What happened to Spatial Freedom and the Astroid controller?

I've been doing some research into 3D mice. Pretty much the only game in town is the space mouse from 3Dconnexion. In doing this I discovered that its original designer John Hilton left after the ...
1
vote
2answers
161 views

How many kinds of mass-producible ROM is avaliable before 1970? [duplicate]

Back in the days before mask ROM (when invented?) we got core rope memories, or Little Old Ladies memories, which required lots of human labor to build. Were there any kinds of ROMs which were ...
11
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3answers
1k views

What is the story behind 'goto' vs 'go' 'to' in ALGOL-60?

Preamble As Algol-60 had no reserved words, the language keywords had to be specially marked, e.g. prefixed with an underscore with a trailing space or semicolon (_begin _integer i;i:=42_end), or ...

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