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

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9 votes
1 answer
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How many commercial Spectrum ROM cartridges were released?

According to this site, Sinclair released a total of ten titles on cartridge: all games that were popular on cassette, and all in 1983, the year the Interface 2 was released. I know the cartridges ...
Pastychomper thanks Monica's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why did the VAX compatibility mode not implement the MARK instruction?

This question was inspired by an older question about the MARK instruction which recently bubbled up to the top of the active pile. The VAX-11/780 and several follow-on VAXen implemented a PDP-11 ...
dave's user avatar
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8 votes
0 answers
255 views

What were the licensing terms for The Hobbit? [closed]

The Hobbit was a 1982 illustrated text adventure game released initially on the Spectrum, based on the Tolkien novel of the same name. According to https://www.filfre.net/2012/11/the-hobbit/ Unlike ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Spectrum DIY upgrade to 48K

The ZX Spectrum was initially sold in 16 and 48K versions. Every owner of the former version who continued using it, inevitably ended up wanting the upgrade to the latter. (I get the impression it ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
2 votes
1 answer
430 views

What were 3dfx's future plans for their Glide API before it was phased out? [closed]

The end of 3dfx in December 2000 also meant the end of the Glide API for new games. But does anyone, perhaps former 3dfx employees, know what the future of the Glide API was planned if 3dfx had ...
Coder's user avatar
  • 1,068
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Did BBC Micro business software stick to 40 columns?

The iconic personal computer sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was most famous for its use in UK schools, so I was surprised to read in The Legacy of the BBC Micro: By October 1983, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why was the percent sign chosen as escape character for URLs?

URIs use percent encoding to represent characters which would otherwise be reserved (like the forward slash - %2F), not always displayable or recognizable (Unicode characters, e.g. non-Latin letters) ...
Glorfindel's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

When was the original version of the DICE C compiler for the Amiga released? And when did it become free?

Back in the day I bought SAS/C for the Amiga. I seem to recall that before that there was Aztec C, Manx C, and Lattice C that were the major commercial C compilers for the platform. I never used them. ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 6,774
3 votes
2 answers
487 views

What was the first satellite data link that can properly be called an internet connection?

Scott Manley, in his second video about communication satellites, focusing on the 1963 Telstar 1, mentioned at 10:22: (Telstar 1) could be used for telephones it could carry multiple circuits, it ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 2,358
21 votes
10 answers
9k views

Was there any computer since about 1960 without interrupt support?

The invention and spread of interrupts in the 1950s is reasonably well known but I am curious: were there any systems after which didn't support them?
chx's user avatar
  • 1,041
9 votes
1 answer
429 views

What was the rationale for the 'INPUT' button on an ICL 1900 console teletype?

ICL 1900 computers were always supplied with 'executive' software tailored to the specific installation. Exec provided simple program load and run facilities. There were no 'lights and switches' on ...
dave's user avatar
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17 votes
7 answers
5k views

Why did Linux standardise on RTS/CTS flow control for serial ports

I've recently been working out how best to wire up a serial cable for a vintage plotter, and it's thrown me down the rabbit hole of RS-232. As far as I can tell, many RS-232 devices which act as DTEs (...
Peter Russell's user avatar
80 votes
7 answers
37k views

Who invented file extensions in file names?

Do we know when and where the idea of adding a suffix to filenames was conceived? I have found a lot of information about the history of specific file formats, but I am curious about when the need for ...
viggo's user avatar
  • 803
12 votes
5 answers
4k views

What was the first desktop computer with fully-functional input and output?

What was the first desktop computing system that satisfied the following features: It fully fit on desktop It included the full alpha-numeric keyboard It included a full text display, terminal or ...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 1,547
18 votes
2 answers
5k views

Which computer language was the first with two forward slashes ("//") for comments?

Apparently COMAL created around 1975 had 'em. Anything earlier? (This Q&A over at the langdev stack doesn't answer this question.)
davidbak's user avatar
  • 6,354
5 votes
2 answers
5k views

What does it mean to "publish machine code"?

The Wikipedia article on “An Open Letter to Hobbysts” says that Bill Gates complained about hobbyists pirating his software, and due to piracy he refused to publish the machine code of his Altair ...
robertspierre's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
16k views

How were the signs for logical and arithmetic operators decided?

I'm curious as to how exactly some of the logical and arithmetic operator signs were decided? The plus and minus operators make sense, but how was decided that / was the division operator or that * ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
  • 6,899
51 votes
7 answers
28k views

Why did the Motorola 68000 processor family fall out of use in personal computers in the 21st century?

In the '80s and '90s the Intel x86 and Motorola 68000 families were the two leading microcomputer architectures in the 16-bit/32-bit personal computer scene. The 68000s were even preferred by the ...
Biff Iam's user avatar
  • 2,229
11 votes
6 answers
3k views

What made the ENIAC "programmable"?

The ENIAC was the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. However, it was programmed by "rewiring", and this is what I do not understand. When we say "...
Noob_Guy's user avatar
  • 693
-2 votes
1 answer
228 views

How did Jon von Neumann come up with the idea of the Von Neumann architecture? [duplicate]

The Von Neumann architecture has the following components: A processing unit with both an arithmetic logic unit and processor registers A control unit that includes an instruction register and ...
Noob_Guy's user avatar
  • 693
8 votes
0 answers
506 views

How was the Amiga console supposed to work with only 32KB of RAM?

During the development of the Amiga, one of the targets was a game console with 32KB of RAM. How was it supposed to work? by blitting ahead of the beam with the Copper to avoid double buffering? was ...
Valentino Miazzo's user avatar
23 votes
1 answer
3k views

Where can I find the code of the ancestors of the WebKit family of web browsers?

I want to trace the development of the web browser back to the earliest point. The code that would become WebKit began in 1998 as the KDE HTML (KHTML) layout engine and KDE JavaScript (KJS) engine. --...
vaughan's user avatar
  • 333
5 votes
0 answers
363 views

Did the Soviets need industrial espionage to get IBM software pre-1970?

Due to lack of the OS-level file system on the BESM-6, and to deficiencies of data visualization tools which could help people decide which blocks of a system disk could be reused (the line of ...
Leo B.'s user avatar
  • 19.4k
4 votes
0 answers
254 views

First machine with dedicated scatter/gather?

I know the Cray-1 had scatter/gather addressing, but I am curious if anyone knows what the first machine with this feature might be? I suspect it is one of the vector machines from this era, perhaps ...
Maury Markowitz's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
3k views

Did a serial port card reader sink the prospects of consumer chip card readers?

According to https://groups.google.com/g/alt.folklore.computers/c/z4sm_W1MZXg at the start of the century there were several efforts for secure payments involving chip cards (and chip readers). in ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
8 votes
1 answer
641 views

Were punching tools for punch cards with rectangular holes easier to keep sharp than those for round holes?

There is a question here on retrocomputing if round punch card holes where mechanically stiffer: Were round punchcard holes mechanically stiffer? I wondered if the reason for the rectangular holes on ...
Coder's user avatar
  • 1,068
10 votes
1 answer
564 views

Relay computer performance

I'm looking for performance data on relay based computers, and even human based computers. Performance, as in, time to perform an addition, multiple, etc. The Nordhaus data is all I have been able to ...
Derek Jones's user avatar
20 votes
2 answers
3k views

Did the IBM ServiceFree really reach 80 MIPS in 1975?

According to Computer Wars by Charles H Ferguson and Charles R Morris, page 40-41, an IBM researcher named Cocke in the early 70s built a RISC minicomputer called the ServiceFree (because it was meant ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
5 votes
1 answer
276 views

How many units of the ZX81 RAM pack were sold?

The Sinclair ZX81 was an extremely popular low-cost home computer, on strength of price, being a computer for less than 100 pounds. It sold over 1.5 million units, according to https://web.archive.org/...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
16 votes
4 answers
3k views

What is the earliest computer technology to be referred to as "Artificial Intelligence"?

It seems that in recent years, when people talk about "AI", they are usually referring to neural net-based technologies (ChatGPT being the most well known example at the moment). But ...
T Hummus's user avatar
  • 261
23 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why were OS/360 PL/I procedure calls so expensive in terms of stack space?

In 1977, Guy Steele published a paper entitled Debunking the “expensive procedure call” myth or, procedure call implementations considered harmful or, LAMBDA: The Ultimate GOTO. The paper was the ...
Alexis King's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
657 views

How much did it cost to develop the 8-bit era graphics chips?

I'm interested in the development cost of different kinds of chips in the 70s and 80s, both for its own sake and because it aids in the understanding of historical events; in technology and business, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
3 votes
0 answers
252 views

Were the Apple II patents, obstacles to cloning?

The Apple II was a simple design relative to its retail price, so attractive to cloners. This naturally led to many lawsuits, at least one of which actually established new copyright law. https://en....
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
1 vote
0 answers
331 views

Was hardware scrolling patented?

One of the most valuable graphical features on early computers that had it, was hardware scrolling, that allowed the horizontal position of the screen to be adjusted by one or more pixels, thereby ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
5 votes
1 answer
315 views

Did Atari lobby against FCC regulation change?

In the 1970s, FCC limits on RF emissions applied to 'anything that plugs into a TV', and were stringent and difficult to pass. Atari went to extraordinary lengths regarding this when designing their ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
5 votes
1 answer
408 views

Why does the VIC-20 have its cartridge area at a higher adress than the I/O area?

Why did the designers of the Commodore VIC-20 chose to put the main cartridge ROM area at $A000, beyond the character ROM area at $8000 and the I/O area at $9000? Flipping the two around, with the ROM ...
TeaRex's user avatar
  • 967
6 votes
1 answer
419 views

Which CPU was the first to clear the carry and overflow bits after performing logical operations?

As I work on implementing support for old architectures for the Reko decompiler (https://github.com/uxmal/reko) I notice over and over how consistently most 1980's CPUs echo a pattern. Since an ...
John Källén's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
883 views

What was the cost difference between single and double sided 5.25" floppy drives?

5.25" floppy disk drives for 8-bit computers were by and large single-sided, but the IBM PC used double-sided drives. It would be tempting to explain this by saying, well of course the double-...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
25 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why does the Commodore 64 have 4K of non-banked RAM at $C000?

I wonder why the Commodore 64 memory map was created as it was. Naively, it seems to be that it would have been more logical to put I/O and the character ROM at $B000 to $BFFF, have the ROMs in a ...
TeaRex's user avatar
  • 967
16 votes
2 answers
3k views

Were cartridge slots cheaper at the back?

I'm remembering a difference in the design of Commodore computers like the Vic and 64, versus the Atari 8-bits, and game consoles from the likes of Atari and Nintendo: they all had cartridge slots, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
9 votes
1 answer
852 views

Historical installed base figures for early lines of personal computer?

Lately I've been curious about early personal computers and how they became popular. Something I've realized is that my idea of which computers were most prevalent, and when, was quite wrong. I grew ...
rt81's user avatar
  • 91
17 votes
1 answer
729 views

What capabilities did the Mark I Perceptron demonstrate?

The Mark I Perceptron, developed by Frank Rosenblatt in 1958, was a pioneering supervised image classification learning system. Many articles explain the mathematics behind it, and its shortcomings, ...
Ritesh Singh's user avatar
31 votes
5 answers
4k views

In what ways was the Windows NT POSIX implementation unsuited to real use?

Windows NT implemented POSIX compatibility because some US government contracts required such. It is said that the POSIX implementation was only pro forma, not intended or suitable for real use (i.e. ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
16 votes
7 answers
5k views

Difference between program and application [closed]

When I started learning about computers in the mid nineties, all books used the word program to reference any executable that ran under MS-DOS (.exe, .com, .bat). Applications was a math concept, at ...
user10191234's user avatar
  • 1,955
28 votes
3 answers
8k views

Why was MacOS unix certified?

As I understand it most Linux distros adhere to the UNIX specifications while only a few actually get UNIX certified. If plenty of Linux distros can happily adhere to the standard without being ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
  • 6,899
11 votes
0 answers
238 views

Anyone know of older mentions of the word "trap" for software interrupts than the IBM 704 manual from 1955?

I've dug into the origin of the word "trap" in computer engineering. The older documented mentions of the term I can find, is the "trapping mode" in the IBM 704, specifically in ...
BipedalJoe's user avatar
26 votes
3 answers
7k views

Where/when did the sentence "a good developer is lazy" first appear?

The title says it all. Where/When was "a good developer is a lazy developer" (or its equivalent) first said, in which context and for what purpose?
Itération 122442's user avatar
-3 votes
1 answer
406 views

Why was there never added C/C++ (native) support to HTML web pages? [closed]

I wonder why they never added an interface to run native code (for example assembly/C/C++/Rust...) to HTML web pages? Because without it CPU intense games will never run in the browser. Some people ...
javanerd's user avatar
  • 401
5 votes
1 answer
388 views

What were the release dates for the NEC V series CPUs?

I am trying to determine when the NEC V series CPUs became available. So far I have: 1982 µPD8088 1984 V20 ???? V40 ???? V41 1981 µPD8086 1984 V30 1988 V33 ???? V50 ???? V51 ???? V53 1986 V60 1987 ...
user's user avatar
  • 15.3k
10 votes
1 answer
2k views

Did the rm project remove itself during early development?

Is it true that Brian Kernighan while developing rm accidentally tested the project so that it removed itself? Then, according to story, he had to start over from the beginning because there was no ...
Niklas Rosencrantz's user avatar

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