Questions tagged [history]

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

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Belated ascendancy of dynamic linkers

Old computer systems were supplied—by our present notion—with very little memory, thus conservation of both RAM and storage room has been tremendously important during those years of austerity. ...
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11 votes
10 answers
3k views

Hardware assisted Graphical User Interface?

I have read a fiction novel in which a manufacturer in the 80s provided GUI by adding a dedicated drawing hardware besides videocard or by extending videocard. Fictional as it is, is this possible or ...
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5 votes
8 answers
580 views

Were there any filesystems support tag based key-value pairs before the 90s?

Attribute–value pair is quite common in programming languages, databases, URL query-strings, and Email/HTTP headers, which could also be used to organize, classify and version files. Extended file ...
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7 votes
1 answer
391 views

Why was the Altair numbered "8800" even though the processor was an 8080?

The Altair 8800 was a computer using the Intel 8080 processor. Why the difference in numbers?
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4 votes
2 answers
434 views

Are ECMA and ANSI sister organisations?

ECMA was the body that formalized JavaScript while ANSI was as I understand it the body that formalized much of the early C programming language, what became known as ANSI C. Are these two ...
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1 vote
1 answer
170 views

Did the computing power of end users increase at a steady pace over the years? [closed]

Does the computing power of the average people in the household increase at a steady pace or has it wax and waned over the years? Are there some eras of computers where computing power grew faster ...
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-4 votes
3 answers
334 views

What was the last personal computer to have the chips neatly arranged in rows and columns?

Once upon a time, the chips on the circuit boards of personal computers1 were arranged in a tidy grid pattern. Observe the board of the Apple ][+: Or the Commodore 128: Sadly, the zen of neat rows ...
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6 votes
1 answer
1k views

What was the first computer board to be wave-soldered?

The Wikipedia article on wave soldering does not give any information on its history. What was the first computer circuit board to use this process? I am specifically looking for computers that were ...
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13 votes
1 answer
563 views

Where did the # notation for hexadecimal RGB colour triples originate?

The hexadecimal notation #RRGGBB for RGB colour triples has been popularised by HTML and is commonly associated with it, even though nowadays it is not usually used in HTML directly, but rather ...
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9 votes
2 answers
327 views

Did any equipment ship with odd serial parity by default?

The asynchronous serial protocol supported an optional parity bit, which could make the total number of "1" bits an even number or an odd number. As discussed in this question, parity could ...
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26 votes
1 answer
4k views

Where is the ancient preprocessor?

I found the old C compiler from V6, and, though it seems to the modern eye a little different from good, idiomatic C, evidently it uses things like #include and #define, but I do not see how it ...
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3 votes
3 answers
415 views

Have TCP connections ever been exclusive per port?

I came across an old service which listens on a range of TCP ports. Client connections are handled with this scheme: Client connects to the first port Server answers with a port number and closes the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
216 views

When did cross-platform C start assuming function prototypes? [closed]

The most important difference between the original 'K&R' C, and ANSI/ISO C89/90, was function prototypes. These started being supported by some compilers in the mid-eighties, were formally ...
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31 votes
3 answers
3k views

What aspect of portable floating point did Java back down on?

Java was released under the slogan 'write once, run anywhere'; while its adoption was probably more about 'now we have a language that provides garbage collection in a familiar workflow and with a ...
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13 votes
6 answers
2k views

How can extra (digital) data be hidden on VCR/VHS tapes? [closed]

For my new crime-novel I am in need of some more specific info on hiding digital data on analog VCR or VHS cassettes. I have already read a lot online and seen the LCR oddware video on that case (...
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8 votes
6 answers
575 views

Besides the IBM 709 and its descendents, did any other machine have "slightly longer" registers?

This question occurred to me while I was formulating this answer about arithmetic versus logical shifts. The IBM 709, and its descendant the 7090, etc., is a 36-bit mainframe with a classical single-...
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15 votes
2 answers
2k views

Which computers did Donald Knuth "mix" together to get MIX?

The MIX was a computer design that Donald Knuth used to illustrate computer instruction sets in his magnum opus The Art of Computer Programming. MIX's model number is 1009, which was derived by ...
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23 votes
7 answers
5k views

What was the last non-monolithic CPU to come to market?

This answer to the question "What was the rationale behind 36 bit computer architectures?" makes the point that early computers were assembled by hand, rather than having central processing ...
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14 votes
3 answers
2k views

What were the differences between Xenix and Unix?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix by the beginning of the nineties, SCO was selling 32-bit 386 versions of both Xenix and Unix. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=...
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12 votes
1 answer
1k views

What did Prodigy use for pre-web GUI client?

Prodigy was a big early Internet service provider, and of course by the late nineties, the most popular Internet protocol was the web; most users spent most of their Internet time in a web browser. ...
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37 votes
3 answers
6k views

What did AOL use for pre-web GUI client?

AOL was a big early Internet service provider, and of course by the late nineties, the most popular Internet protocol was the web; most users spent most of their Internet time in a web browser. But if ...
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5 votes
1 answer
1k views

When did AOL start offering Internet email?

AOL, one of the most successful early Internet service providers, started life in 1983 as a company called Control Video Corporation selling downloadable games for the Atari 2600; this became Quantum ...
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14 votes
2 answers
1k views

Origin of "arithmetic" and "logical" for signed and unsigned shifts

The assembly language for many processors use the phrase "arithmetic shift" to represent the bitwise shift of a signed value, and "logical shift" for an unsigned value. The two ...
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5 votes
1 answer
398 views

What HyperCard extensions did Myst use?

The original Macintosh version of Myst was written in HyperCard. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20549685 Adding useful features, such as uploading those HTML files to a web server, ...
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7 votes
1 answer
1k views

What programming languages were most commonly used on the AS/400 in the 90s?

The IBM AS/400, formerly known as System/38, subsequently known as i (sic), is remarkable in being essentially the most future-proof of all the minicomputers, thanks among other things to the use of ...
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  • 48.8k
4 votes
1 answer
137 views

How was EDSAC program code represented on uniselectors?

(I hope we haven't covered this somewhere...) The 1949 EDSAC could boot, as we say nowadays, from a bank of uniselectors. It's unclear to me how program code was actually represented on the ...
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16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Which was the first magazine presented in electronic form, on a data medium, to be read on a computer?

In this question a magazine is meant to be a periodical publication containing news, information and other content like software for example. By electronic magazine I mean a magazine presented in ...
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0 votes
1 answer
318 views

What's the heritage of 80286? [closed]

80186 introduced some instructions for HLL features. 80286 introduced some instructions for protected mode, and provided some multitasking ability with external MMU which was never intended for PCs ...
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  • 2,428
5 votes
0 answers
231 views

What was this book about floating-point system design/construction?

A comment on the question Why did 8-bit Basic use 40-bit floating point? says the following (emphasis added): Re, "Nowadays, floating point is usually either 32 or 64 bits." More ...
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5 votes
1 answer
359 views

What size was the Microsoft Internet Explorer team?

According to Joel Spolsky, I will give the Internet Explorer team credit. With IE versions 3.0 and 4.0 they probably created software about ten times faster than the industry norm. This had nothing ...
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  • 48.8k
5 votes
4 answers
408 views

Cheapest type of Read-Only Memory allowing Random access before Year 1970

Back in the 50s and 60s people had: random access, read-write memories like Magnetic Cores. sequential access, read-write memories like Delay Lines and Magnetic Tapes. And: sequential access, write ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
349 views

Was this a typo/mistake, or did a mid-1990s cheap "data bank" for personal use really only hold THREE addresses + phone numbers? [closed]

In approximately 1995, or 1996, at the very latest 1997, I was a kid who was obsessed with cutting-edge technical gadgets. I carefully read every issue of this "Teknikmagasinet" catalogue, ...
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3 votes
3 answers
391 views

What was the most common method of internet access for small offices in 1990s in USA?

In mid-1990s, dial-up access was already common, but its speeds were still low (like 14-28 kbps, 56 kbps only in the late 1990s), and I don't know if there were any popular solutions to share dial-up ...
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18 votes
3 answers
3k views

When did files start to be dated?

When I revisit my files on a 5¼″ floppy using my 1541 drive with a C64 I mainly miss the date on files. I know that a Real Time Clock was not implemented and that the first computer to integrate the ...
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19 votes
11 answers
4k views

What was the earliest system to explicitly support threading based on shared memory?

The notion of multiple processes has been around a long time, at least since the IBM 360. Multiple processes running at the same time, in separate memory spaces with protection from each other. (In ...
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24 votes
4 answers
5k views

When did half-bad RAM chips stop being available?

The ZX Spectrum sold with either 16 or 48K RAM, necessitating an optional 32K memory bank which was achieved in a characteristically (for Sinclair) cleverly frugal way: with half-bad 64kbit DRAM chips,...
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5 votes
1 answer
267 views

Did the Power Macintosh 8500 have accelerated blitting?

Looking at online specifications for the Power Macintosh 8500, I was able to find few details on its graphics capabilities beyond quantity of VRAM and supported color depths, refresh rates, and ...
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40 votes
1 answer
7k views

What was "the shrinkwrap issue?"

I first read "Alice in UNIX Land" (by Lincoln Spector, Texas Computer Currents, Sept. 1989), probably around the time when it was written — and at that time didn't understand very many of ...
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  • 3,726
2 votes
0 answers
133 views

How many people were employed in the UK making Sinclair computers?

According to Wikipedia Sinclair Research had only 140 employees at its peak in the 1980s. I was surprised the number was so small for a company that sold something like five million computers, then I ...
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  • 48.8k
10 votes
2 answers
900 views

What was the communication format of the Edison stock ticker?

Thomas Edison invented the first practical stock ticker in 1869, which is considered to be an important predecessor to teletypes and computer printers. The Wikipedia page for the stock ticker ...
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9 votes
6 answers
1k views

What did order processing on a teletype look like?

The earliest business data processing systems were based on batch processing of punchcards. Prepare cards off-line, feed a batch of them through the computer. (Why does one so often hear of payroll, ...
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  • 48.8k
3 votes
1 answer
207 views

Porting of software from the m68k family architecture to the DEC VAX

I am looking for impressions, memoirs, articles, guidelines - everything that is possible about the unusual direction of software migration. I am interested in non-Unix related code, and preferably ...
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17 votes
1 answer
1k views

How did SABRE work interactively without screens?

The SABRE airline reservation system went online in 1964, astonishing the world by being among other things the first large-scale interactive computing system. Once the IBM 3270 video terminals were ...
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  • 48.8k
21 votes
1 answer
2k views

Where are the sources of the original curses library?

The curses library is a terminal control library for Unix-like systems used in text based user interface applications. It has been used in many games in the past. It was developed by Ken Arnold and ...
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23 votes
12 answers
7k views

Was memory corruption a common problem in large programs written in assembly language?

Memory corruption bugs have always been a common problem in large C programs and projects. It was a problem in 4.3BSD back then, and it's still a problem today. No matter how carefully the program is ...
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  • 2,866
2 votes
4 answers
747 views

Are there some non-OOP programming languages that does not allow you to make a variable private? [closed]

In the non-OOP programming languages that I know of, you can't make a variable private (i.e. there is no private keyword), but there are some tricks that you can use to effectively make a variable ...
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30 votes
13 answers
6k views

In what language(s) is the return value set by assigning to the function’s name?

In this Stack Overflow question the original code made the mistake of using the function name as a variable, and assigned the return value to it. A commenter mentioned that he once used a language ...
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  • 1,545
7 votes
2 answers
784 views

What was the first microprocessor to overlap loads with ALU ops?

Modern out of order CPUs can do all sorts of things in parallel, having not only multiple functional units, but a lot of logic to check at runtime exactly which instructions really depend on others, ...
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6 votes
0 answers
305 views

What was a DEC PDP-11/85 intended to be, and why might it be able to use DECsystem-10 software?

In this DEC PDP-11 Strategy Memo from Sept 1974, there is this curious question. HOW MUCH OF THE DEC SYSTEM 10 SOFTWARE CAN THE 11/85 USE, OR DOES THE 11/85 HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH? CONFLICTING ...
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4 votes
2 answers
446 views

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers?

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers? And is it known what percentage of PDP-11 computers used this operating system?
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