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

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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
9 votes
2 answers
634 views

Was there an equivalent to TELNET in the IPX/SPX protocol suite?

It seems logically like there would be, but I can't find much information. I found an IBM AS/400 manual from 1997, OS/400 Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) Support V4R1, which briefly mentions using ...
Simon Kissane's user avatar
16 votes
1 answer
1k views

What was the release date of the MOS 8502?

I have been unable to find when the MOS 8502 was first released to customers. The process it was made on was available from 1979, but MOS don't appear to have used it for their own parts at that time. ...
user's user avatar
  • 15.3k
22 votes
2 answers
3k views

How was the order of Unicode block-quadrant characters chosen?

Unicode codepoints 0x2596–0x259f can help you draw primitive graphics by offering all the combinations of on or off for the four quadrants of a glyph. They're available in this order: ▖ ▗ ▘ ▙ ▚ ▛ ...
Daniel Wagner's user avatar
19 votes
0 answers
477 views

Is an X Window System older than release 10 available online?

I'm looking for any copy of the X Window System older than release 10. The oldest on x.org is X10R3. Bob Scheifler doesn't have anything. Jim Gettys may have something, but has yet to retrieve it ...
Lars Brinkhoff's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
578 views

Was the Game Boy CPU a completely new layout?

As explained on the Wikipedia Game Boy article and Is the Game Boy Sharp LR35902 object-compatible with the 8080/Z-80?, the Game Boy used a custom CPU that was fairly close to being a superset of the ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
13 votes
1 answer
749 views

What happened to Doug Engelbart's NLS?

Apparently, it was sold to "Tymshare" in 1977, but what happened to it after that? Who has the software now? Could it ever be emulated?
les-citrons's user avatar
25 votes
3 answers
7k views

When did HTTP start compressing text?

HTML tends to compress well, typically consisting of text interspersed with repetitive tags. Transparently compressing it for download is a fairly obvious optimization to save bandwidth. When did Web ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
3 votes
2 answers
435 views

When did CMOS processors become the fastest?

The earliest CMOS microprocessors (RCA 1802, HP Stirling RISC, et.al.) were slower than contemporaneous NMOS microprocessors and Bipolar logic computers. (IIRC, both the 1802 and the 6502 could be ...
hotpaw2's user avatar
  • 8,287
7 votes
2 answers
412 views

Which historical Unixes supported terminal I/O with five or six bits per character, and with what character sets?

The specification for termios.h includes a facility for controlling the number of bits per character sent over the serial line, the CSIZE and CSn constants. You can request five, six, seven, or eight ...
zwol's user avatar
  • 449
20 votes
3 answers
4k views

when did command line applications start using "-h" as a "standard" way to print "help"?

I am interested to hear about the history because I have a prominent command line product that has decided to use -h for something that does not print a help message. when did command line ...
Trevor Boyd Smith's user avatar
19 votes
10 answers
6k views

Why does cat with no argument read from standard input?

In advice about how to design good CLI commands I read: If your command is expecting to have something piped to it and stdin is an interactive terminal, display help immediately and quit. This means ...
John Skiles Skinner's user avatar
18 votes
2 answers
2k views

What was 'Maclogal'?

While reading about the ATOLL Checkout Language in the April 1965 issue of DATAMATION (pp 33-35), I came across one letter to the editor (pg 12), discussing the volume required to house the ~1QB ...
Infinite_Maelstrom's user avatar
22 votes
1 answer
8k views

Why did Windows 3.0 fail in Japan?

According to The launch of Windows 3.1 in Japan was such a big event that they even called it “Windows Day” (Bullfrag): When Microsoft released Windows 3.0 in the United States in 1990, they were ...
rwallace's user avatar
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16 votes
1 answer
3k views

Did Digital Research clean-room MS-DOS?

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DR-DOS DR-DOS (written as DR DOS, without a hyphen, in versions up to and including 6.0) is a disk operating system for IBM PC compatibles. Upon its introduction in ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
9 votes
0 answers
560 views

When did Kay Nishi offer a million dollars for a competing DOS?

The development of Digital Research's fully-compatible MS-DOS competitor, DR DOS, was encouraged when, according to https://retrotechnology.com/dri/dri_wein.html After DOS Plus for Philips we did a ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
22 votes
1 answer
518 views

Looking for help understanding a 'Reciproot' routine on the Manchester Mark I (1951)

I'm hoping to understand a routine written for the Manchester Mark I [NOTE: a comment from Raffzahn suggests this may be the Ferranti (wikipedia link) and not the Manchester Mark I] which computes ...
Adam Hyland's user avatar
  • 1,027
23 votes
2 answers
5k views

What did Windows 2 do about varying aspect ratio?

There was a time when computer graphics had to deal with non-square pixels. Happily that time ended once everyone had VGA or better. But Windows 2 supported both EGA and VGA. And while the latter has ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
20 votes
2 answers
2k views

Which is the first version of DOS to support more than one reserved sector in a FAT file system?

I'm trying to fix a problem when trying to use DOS stuff on SSDs. The problem is sector alignment in an SSD is completely different from what DOS expects, and writes to FAT do funny things when the ...
Joshua's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
325 views

Was ∆ used in APL as a substitute for space because ECMA-17/ISO 2047 specified △ as graphical representation for space?

Wikipedia on naming conventions in programming states (without source): In APL dialects, the delta (Δ) is used between words, e.g. PERFΔSQUARE (…) This is an unusual choice, but I notice that ECMA-...
Adám's user avatar
  • 668
18 votes
3 answers
2k views

When did the 386 overtake the 286?

The Intel 80386 was released in 1985, but was initially expensive, and took a long time to fully displace the earlier 80286 from the market; subjectively, I remember significant numbers of 286 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
6 votes
1 answer
471 views

What were the 189 GUI design elements that Apple claimed 'look and feel' copyright over?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Microsoft_Corp. Apple listed 189 GUI elements; the court decided that 179 of these elements had been licensed to Microsoft in the ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
6 votes
5 answers
3k views

Were there cross-compiler online services for the public?

Compiling takes computing power, and to a lesser extent, storage and memory. Back in the 70s and 80s personal computers weren't powerful enough to compile codes in high-level languages or if capable ...
Schezuk's user avatar
  • 3,754
21 votes
8 answers
7k views

Did Pascal programmers really move on to Java in the 90s?

According to this video Pascal suffered great loss of percentage in the 90s. There is, contrary to the common belief that C prevailed over Pascal, a counterargument that Pascal programmers moved on to ...
Schezuk's user avatar
  • 3,754
4 votes
1 answer
776 views

What was the first backlit keyboard and were the shift characters illuminated?

I recently bought a Logitech G915 TKL Keyboard. https://www.logitech.com/assets/65840/g915-lightspeed-wireless-rgb-mechanical-gaming-keyboard-qsg.pdf It's great but a massive disadvantage is that ...
chasly - supports Monica's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
2k views

What were top-10 popular programming languages in the 60s, 70s, and the 80s?

TIOBE index has been tracking the most popular programming languages since 2001, which reflects the dominance of C/C++/Java in the first score of 21st century. However C derivatives hadn't beat Pascal ...
Schezuk's user avatar
  • 3,754
7 votes
2 answers
714 views

What is the earliest use in C of indexing the bits of a float or double to sample a table lookup?

One common way to produce an approximation of a function like the logarithm or the exponential is to precompute a table of values (a lookup table) for the output or some intermediate stage of the ...
Adam Hyland's user avatar
  • 1,027
13 votes
1 answer
2k views

Did RapidLok etc knock floppy drives out of alignment?

From https://www.filfre.net/2016/01/a-pirates-life-for-me-part-3-case-studies-in-copy-protection/ But balanced against the one great advantage of RapidLok for the legitimate user was at least one ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
5 votes
3 answers
552 views

Circuit design tool mentioned in AT&T Unix promotion

In this video from AT&T about Unix is a circuit design tool displayed that is claimed to be based on YACC (timestamped link). Does anyone have information about this tool? Like: Documentation ...
Christian Dreier's user avatar
12 votes
4 answers
3k views

History of High Availability in the mainframe and minicomputer eras?

When tracing the source of High Availability, I found to my surprise it led to a company named Tandem Computers which since 1974 made a series of minicomputers called NonStop system, to my surprise ...
Schezuk's user avatar
  • 3,754
7 votes
1 answer
667 views

Mainframe Hater's Handbook?

The famous The UNIX-HATERS Handbook claims this mailing list had been inspired by TWENEX-HATERS(1) and other *-LOVERS mailing lists, a long tradition of MIT. Moreover, the quote below implies there ...
Schezuk's user avatar
  • 3,754
59 votes
7 answers
6k views

Origin of "string"

When did people start referring to an ordered group of characters as a "string"? Did this name come from before / outside of the computing field, or is it special to computing? The metaphor ...
John Skiles Skinner's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
364 views

How did relay computers handle inductor flyback?

Many early computers were relay-computers. Like any other inductor, when the coil in a relay is shut off, the current through the coil continues to flow. This is a result of Faraday's Law of ...
DrSheldon's user avatar
  • 16.5k
19 votes
1 answer
2k views

In what sense would the Atari 3200 have been a 10-bit machine?

The Atari 3200 was a canceled project that would have produced a compatible successor to the 2600. Little seems to be known about it; about the best reference I have been able to find is https://...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
20 votes
4 answers
6k views

Who invented garbage collection?

Google tells me that John McCarthy invented garbage collection, for Lisp in 1959. However, a video on C that I was watching (‘Learn C Programming with Dr. Chuck’, c. 6:40) mentions the lack of a ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
  • 6,899
66 votes
10 answers
15k views

When was the term ‘directory’ replaced by ‘folder’?

I started using computers with MS-DOS and as far as I can remember the data structure holding files was called a directory (it held other directories as well), DIR is still used to list the content of ...
user10191234's user avatar
  • 1,955
61 votes
4 answers
13k views

Why is Ctrl-V the Paste shortcut?

We now casually use the Ctrl-C to Copy. We also use Ctrl-X to Cut. I understand this choice. We cannot reuse Ctrl-C and the 'X' represents a cross. Crossing something out on a sheet of paper was ...
Alexis Wilke's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

What are the most historically relevant implementations of Prolog? And what platforms?

Does anyone know what are the most historically relevant implementations of Prolog, in the sense of being extensively used, and producing representative programs written in this language? And what ...
Taciano Dreckmann Perez's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
542 views

Why did it take 2 hours to switch to a standby VAX? [closed]

According to this section of an excellent book on the history of Novell, I had actually started a business attempting to do some phases of what we are doing here at Novell. My plan was to develop to ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
50 votes
7 answers
36k views

How could early UNIX OS comprise so few lines of code?

I start my journey to become a hardware / software specialist with an internship in two weeks time and decided to start studying the C language early. I came across this video, Learn C Programming ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
  • 6,899
21 votes
2 answers
720 views

What is the history of SysV i386 calling convention for struct return?

I would like to understand historical roots of the quirk in the SysV calling convention for the 32-bit x86, which was inherited by the ELF standard, and so remains used on Linux to this day. Consider ...
amonakov's user avatar
  • 313
1 vote
1 answer
273 views

What cultural problems did TSMC Camas run into in 1995? [closed]

According to a speech made by Morris Chang in Arizona, transcribed at https://interconnect.substack.com/p/globalization-is-dead-and-no-one When I started TSMC back in 1987, I had a dream. Probably ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
27 votes
7 answers
7k views

Did anyone ever run out of stack space on the 6502?

Unlike its main rival the Z80, the 6502 had a size limit of 256 bytes for the hardware stack. That sounds like a very tight limit, but in my experience, it was never actually an issue; by the time you ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

When was the CHS (cylinder - head - sector) system invented and what was before it?

There is some information about the CHS (Cylinder/Head/Sector) addressing system and its design flaws and limits. As long as CHS was not compatible with Zone Bit Recording, which became very popular ...
Vitaly Isaev's user avatar
21 votes
7 answers
4k views

References for the complexity of the COBOL language

One thing that struck me about the design of COBOL was that it was surprisingly complex, particularly for the era. As in, if I were trying to squeeze a compiler into a few tens of kilobytes of memory, ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
58 votes
6 answers
8k views

Did Microsoft really reserve secret APIs in Windows?

In the nineties when the antitrust case was building against Microsoft, various accusations of abuse of monopoly power were leveled against the company, some of which were proven true. One of the more ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

What was the second platform supported by SAP?

SAP, the well-known ERP software company, started out in the 1970s, with the first version of their software running on IBM mainframes, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_R/2 What was unique about R/2 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 63.1k
13 votes
2 answers
1k views

What was the first commercial route planning software for home computers?

Nowadays route planning applications are ubiquitous on smart phones, on embedded or dedicated devices, and on the web. With these applications, you input a destination and a starting point (or the ...
Psychonaut's user avatar
  • 7,681
29 votes
5 answers
4k views

Why does the FAT file system have separate ‘hidden’ and ‘system’ attributes?

File systems used by DOS and Windows have used file attribute bits as a relatively prominent feature. The first of them, FAT, exposes four attributes to the user: read-only, archive, hidden and ...
user3840170's user avatar
  • 23.2k
10 votes
0 answers
226 views

What was IBM's internal Specification Language of the 1980s?

Within IBM's internal Development community, there was a move in the 1980s to bring our skills up to date. As part of this, we were introduced to a specification language, independent of the ...
iainH's user avatar
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