Questions tagged [history]

For questions concerning the history of computers, digital electronics, hardware manufacturers and software developers.

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10
votes
4answers
2k views

What was the first language to use conditional keywords?

The if keyword is so prevalent in programming that it seems to just be part of it. However, with an integer value and a goto statement, one cansimulate the functionality of an if. Which means it's ...
8
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5answers
340 views

Build automation tools before make?

I realized that make was "only" invented in 1976 and seems to be one of the first build automation tools (at least it's probably the oldest still in use). Make with its shell focus seems like a total ...
18
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4answers
3k views

What was the first console to have temporary backward compatibility?

The first five generations of game consoles typically had no backward compatibility. New console, new hardware design, new games. (An exception was the Atari 7800, which as far as I know was the first ...
4
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1answer
173 views

IBM 650 - how many logic gates?

How many logic gates did the IBM 650 have? I'm used to measuring the complexity of a CPU by transistor count, but the 650 was a vacuum tube machine; the number of tubes would also be an interesting ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Did Xerox really develop the first LAN?

Did the computer scientist at Xerox really develop the first LAN, but had no backing from the company to further develop these technologies, later showing this to both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? Just ...
3
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1answer
339 views

Did Xerox engineers really develop the first graphical user interface? [closed]

Did the computer scientist at Xerox really develop the first graphical user interface, later showing this to both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? Just for reference, it is in reference to this story.
44
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2answers
5k views

Why did the IBM 650 use bi-quinary?

The IBM 650, announced in 1953, was the world's first mass-produced computer. It represented numbers in decimal, which is understandable, both because it needed to work with exact money amounts, and ...
22
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2answers
5k views

What was the last x86 CPU that did not have the x87 floating-point unit built in?

This Wikipedia page says the following: Most x86 processors since the Intel 80486 have had these x87 instructions implemented in the main CPU So the above quote implies that some CPUs that were ...
5
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1answer
321 views

What can an 8086 CPU do if an x87 floating-point coprocessor is attached to it? [duplicate]

As far as I know, old x86 CPUs (for example: the 8086 CPU) couldn't do floating point arithmetic, and in order to be able to do floating-point arithmetic, an x87 floating-point coprocessor should be ...
2
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1answer
143 views

Why was the DEC Q-Bus called the Q-bus?

The bus used for DEC's LSI-11 microcomputer implementation of the PDP-11 was originally and prosaically referred to as the LSI-11 bus, but thereafter it was universally referred to as the Q-bus. Does ...
1
vote
2answers
365 views

IBM PC memory map - why RAM at the bottom?

The 8088 provided an address space of one megabyte. The IBM PC allocated that address space as 640K RAM (not that the 5150 could physically take that much, but the address space was allocated) ...
2
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0answers
98 views

How many units did TI Invaders sell?

I'm trying to get a feel for the scale and dynamics of the early home computer game industry. Statistics for arcade games and console cartridges are relatively easy to come by, e.g. that Pac-Man on ...
3
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1answer
185 views

How much RAM did the first version of Oregon Trail on the Apple II require?

The later iterations of the series could have hundreds of kilobytes of RAM, but the original Apple II had 4K in the minimum configuration and 48K maximum (the latter using 16kbit chips which were ...
22
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6answers
6k views

Why was the shrinking from 8″ made only to 5.25″ and not smaller (4″ or less)?

Answers and comments to Why were 5.25" floppy drives cheaper than 8"? suggest some reasons why floppy disks moved from 8" to 5.25"; basically it seems the smaller size reduced engineering ...
9
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4answers
1k views

Early programmable calculators with RS-232

In the early seventies, companies like HP and Wang sold 'programmable desktop calculators' that were really personal computers in the time before what is usually thought of as the dawn of personal ...
31
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7answers
10k views

Why did some early computer designers eschew integers?

Several early computer designs regarded a 'word' as representing not an integer, with the bits having values 2^0, 2^1, 2^2, ..., but as representing a fixed-point fraction 2^-1, 2^-2, 2^-3, ... (For ...
4
votes
2answers
559 views

When did computers stop needing to be marketed as calculators?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hewlett-Packard_9100A The Hewlett-Packard 9100A (hp 9100A) is an early programmable calculator[3] (or computer), first appearing in 1968. HP called it a ...
3
votes
1answer
290 views

Graph of the history of databases

There are several nice graphs (in the computer science sense: nodes and arcs) of the history of programming languages, such as http://rigaux.org/language-study/diagram.html I haven't found one of ...
4
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4answers
279 views

Did the PC/AT-bus use its expanded address space?

The system bus of the IBM PC had 8 data lines and 20 address lines, in a logical correspondence to the 8088 CPU. The AT added a second inline edge connector to expand this to 16 data lines and 24 ...
12
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5answers
3k views

What was the first Unix version to run on a microcomputer?

I have read that the first version of Unix was created for the PDP-7, and later versions were created for the PDP-11. But I am wondering, what was the first Unix version to run on a microcomputer?
4
votes
1answer
961 views

When did Lisp start using symbols for arithmetic?

Looking through the August 1979 issue of Byte magazine, it discusses a dialect of Lisp in which arithmetic operations are denoted by words like PLUS and TIMES. Later dialects like Common Lisp and ...
5
votes
1answer
237 views

Does “Unix” and “UNIX” represent the same thing?

In some articles I see the word Unix written as "Unix", while in other articles I see the word Unix written as "UNIX". Does "Unix" and "UNIX" represent the same thing?
3
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0answers
114 views

Vic-20 total game cartridge sales

The Vic-20, like many home computers of its time, had a cartridge slot that could be used both as a general expansion slot, and for game cartridges like a console. Game cartridges on the Commodore ...
4
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2answers
318 views

Was sneakernet a job description?

'Sneakernet' is a colloquial term for moving data by walking back and forth with a removable digital medium such as a floppy disk or tape in your hand. In 'IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems', page 533, ...
3
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0answers
73 views

Documentation for the MIT PDP-1X OS

The PDP-1x is a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 computer modified to support both ones and twos complement arithmetic, and to include a memory management unit. It ran a locally developed ...
10
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1answer
2k views

Did Nintendo change its mind about 68000 SNES?

Compared to its main rival from Sega, the Super Nintendo has a weaker CPU but a more powerful graphics chip. According to http://web.archive.org/web/20080505070423/http://www.eidolons-inn.net/tiki-...
8
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0answers
347 views

What is the timeline of NASA ground control computers?

In the movie "Hidden Figures", NASA receives an IBM 7090 in 1961. What is the subsequent timeline of the primary computing means for flight planning and orbit calculation? Specifically, what was the ...
0
votes
2answers
387 views

Why did Steve Jobs say that Darwin is a kernel? [closed]

In this video, Steve Jobs introduces Mac OS X (in the year 2000), this is a snapshot from the video: He says that Darwin is the kernel for Mac OS X. Now the following is a diagram of the Mac OS X ...
1
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1answer
217 views

Which developer set the precedent for use of the Shift key for safety (or skipping) at startup time?

Which developer set the precedent? I began wondering after recalling that Mozilla Firefox starts in safe mode if Shift is held at application startup time. Predecessors … I'm certain that Netscape ...
1
vote
1answer
262 views

'Swap file' on early time sharing machines

In the Wikipedia article for time sharing, it says The "state" of each user and their programs would have to be kept in the machine, and then switched between quickly. This would take up computer ...
18
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1answer
3k views

Did 5.25" floppies undergo a change in magnetic coating?

3.5" floppy disks, in the transition from 720K to 1.44M, changed the actual coating to a different compound that was magnetically 'stiffer'. This was necessary to support the higher density, but meant ...
6
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4answers
511 views

What is the origin of Mac OS X?

I think that Mac OS X is based on the Darwin OS, and the Darwin OS is based on the NeXTSTEP OS. Am I correct?
13
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1answer
2k views

What are Holorydmachines?

While going through the memoirs of a witness of the Holocaust in Germany, I stumbled upon the passage: there in Rudolfstadt we had a new holorydmachine from the Americans - in the barn of a farmer -...
13
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2answers
2k views

Why did some CPUs use two Read/Write lines, and others just one?

Many 8-bit processors, such as Motorola's 6800 and MOS Technology's 6502 make use of a single pin to indicate to the rest of the system whether the CPU wishes to read from or write to a memory ...
11
votes
3answers
415 views

Who invented scrollable screens in Amiga?

A well known feature of Amiga is the ability to have multiple Intuition screens (ViewPorts in graphics.library parlance) that coexist and can be laid out on the screen so that they overlap vertically. ...
32
votes
2answers
3k views

Why did the C64 have ← and ↑ as dedicated keys?

I've always wondered why the Commmodore 64 had discrete keys dedicated for the ← and ↑ symbols. If I remember correctly, they weren't used in BASIC at all, and were not very useful for drawing, ...
5
votes
1answer
359 views

Were there any working computers using residue number systems?

Wikipedia says: A residue numeral system (RNS) is a numeral system representing integers by their values modulo several pairwise coprime integers called the moduli. Bit widths of each of those "...
33
votes
2answers
3k views

Why are the symbols on the number keys of PC & Mac keyboards different to ASCII keyboards?

On a US-layout PC keyboard, the symbols above the number keys are as follows: Whereas the keyboard on an Apple II is different: Note, for example, the '(' and ')' symbols are now above 8 and 9, and '...
18
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4answers
5k views

What was the effect of the Video Game Crash of 1983 outside of North America?

The Video Game Crash of 1983 is well known for the effect that it had on the video game console market in North America. A prime example is Atari burying thousands of unsold game cartridges in ...
12
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3answers
2k views

What was the first microprocessor to support full virtualization?

Virtual memory, which allows an operating system to run several machine code programs isolated from each other, came to the desktop during the eighties. But full virtualization, which lets the ...
32
votes
6answers
10k views

Which was the first programming language that had data types?

Machine language (and Assembly language) don't have the concept of data types, so if you want to add an int and a float variables in Assembly, you have to use the appropriate Assembly instruction that ...
4
votes
1answer
206 views

ENIAC stands for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator; what made it particularly suitable for numerical integration?

The acronym ENIAC stands for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator. The fact that it was simpy a numerical computer means it probably could be used to perform numerical integration in some ...
8
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3answers
495 views

Where was this Grace Hopper/Univac photo taken?

Here is a photo of a Univac I with four individuals. According to Artifact Details at the Computer History Museum's web page with an extremely similar photo (perhaps a shot a few moments earlier/later)...
2
votes
3answers
400 views

History of advanced hardware [closed]

Like most people, I grew up in the 1980s, and bore whitness to the great 8-bit home computer revolution. From where I'm sitting, "computers" started with slow 8-bit machines just powerful enough to ...
74
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12answers
16k views

Back in the late 1980s, how was commercial software for 8-bit home computers developed?

When hobbyists wanted to write software for e.g. the Commodore 64, they either used the built-in BASIC interpreter (with all its limitations) or some native tools, like compilers for other languages ...
5
votes
1answer
453 views

How old is Perl's “Plain Old Documentation” (POD) format and why was it called “old” initially?

I recently wondered how the "old" came into the "Plain Old Documentation" of Perl's documentation format "POD". Was it named like this from the beginning? If so, why was it considered old back then? ...
27
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8answers
13k views

Did a shuttle launch take most of the world's computing power?

The 1998 movie "Armageddon" depicts two Space Shuttles launching simultaneously. I read some expert say that "There isn't enough computing power in the world to launch two shuttles at the same time". ...
17
votes
7answers
4k views

Why didn't PostScript eliminate the need for printer drivers?

In the days of dot matrix printers connected by RS-232 or the IBM/Centronics parallel port, each with its own quirky set of commands, it's obvious why printer drivers were a necessary and important ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Why did 3.5" floppies win (and not another size)?

It's an open question whether desktops would've kept using 5.25" until the end of the floppy era, but laptops meant something smaller was going to be introduced; that much was essentially ...
49
votes
11answers
14k views

Why did trackballs disappear?

For a desktop computer, a mouse is a great pointing device. For a laptop if you don't want an extra device to keep track of, you need an alternative. The options I'm aware of: NubLow-tech, cheap, ...