Questions tagged [history]

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

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12
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3answers
2k views

What hardware did advanced programming languages run on? [closed]

Some years ago, I discovered an obscure programming language called Haskell. This language is mind-blowingly powerful; I can barely believe it even exists. But what's even more shocking is, it was ...
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5answers
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Filesystems with versioning

I've been reading through The Unix Hater's Handbook. It has many, many very valid criticisms. (I'm still raging that terminal escape codes aren't in the terminal driver...) There is one anomaly though:...
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Who were the Atari ST designers pilfered from Commodore?

After Jack Tramiel was fired from Commodore and became the owner of Atari, I believe he offered jobs to a number of key technical people who followed him from Commodore. Who were the key people (if ...
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Zilog Z80 freezes while binary counting up to 65 536 (2^16)

A few days ago, I got Z80A CPU from eBay. So I tried to run it with classic 555 timer as a clock signal generator. I connected the 8-bit data bus of the CPU to the ground to "simulate ROM" (00 for NOP)...
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0answers
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What was the cost of the PS2 chip in the last PS3 to have it?

The PlayStation 2 provided backward compatibility with the PS1 by essentially incorporating an entire PS1 on a separate chip. It kept this arrangement permanently. The PS3 started off providing ...
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4answers
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Why were the PlayStation 2 CPU and GPU initially separate chips?

At the heart of the PlayStation 2 were a pair of custom chips, described in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_2_technical_specifications CPU: MIPS III R5900-based "Emotion Engine", ...
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2answers
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How did most fifth-generation consoles avoid wobbly graphics?

According to Why do 3D models on the PlayStation 1 “wobble” so much? the PlayStation had a problem with wobbly graphics because Filling a triangle involves visiting every pixel within it and deciding ...
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1answer
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How much memory did the PlayStation development kit have?

The PlayStation 1 had two megabytes of main memory, one megabyte of video memory and half a megabyte of audio memory. Squeezing everything to fit into these limits was one of the big challenges of ...
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2answers
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Did Crash Bandicoot wear out CD drives?

According to https://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/06/making-crash-bandicoot-part-5/ Andy had given Kelly a rough idea of how we were getting so much detail through the system: spooling. Kelly ...
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1answer
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What were the wholesale costs of 256kbit vs 1Mbit DRAM chips in 1994?

In the early eighties, 64kbit DRAM chips replaced 16kbit ones by being cheaper per bit. Around 1987, 256kbit replaced 64kbit in turn, so computers like the Commodore 64 started using two of them for ...
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What sort of RAM chips did the Commodore 64 use in 1994?

For the first few years after its release in 1982, the Commodore 64 used eight RAM chips of 64kbit each. In the late eighties, it became cheaper to use a pair of 256kbit chips of the 4-bit-wide ...
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3answers
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Where did the free parameters of IEEE 754 come from?

It's clear where many of the design decisions of IEEE 754 floating point come from. For example, the binary format maximizes efficiency on binary hardware. And 32 and 64 bits for single and double ...
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6answers
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Did any RISC CPU ever take more than one clock cycle per instruction?

Classic RISC CPUs like ARM and MIPS basically offer the trade-off: simple instruction set, but instructions execute in one cycle for good overall performance. (It gets more complicated in later times, ...
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5answers
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What was the first introduction of callback concept of programming?

Although I seriously code with computer languages in general since 2010 and as an amateur programmer with programming languages in particular since 2015 (primarily Bash and JavaScript imperative ...
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6answers
10k views

Why did early arcade games use vertical displays?

Surprisingly many early arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Galaxian and Galaga, mounted their displays vertically, in portrait rather than landscape orientation. (From the perspective of the electronics, ...
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1answer
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Commodore – The Inside Story [closed]

Commodore – The Inside Story, by David Pleasance, who was a manager in Commodore UK. Sounds like a very interesting book, supposedly available, but when I look on Amazon, hoping in particular for the ...
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Which 8-bit computers were used in German schools in the 1980s?

In the 1980s, each country had a particular brand of computer that was most commonly used in schools; often, there was pressure to go with a local manufacturer. In the US, the Apple II. In Britain, ...
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Why was it not possible to cost-reduce the Amiga 500?

According to 'Commodore: The Final Years' (whole trilogy highly recommended, BTW), page 129, 'Jeff Porter realized it would not be possible to significantly cost reduce the Amiga 500 to get it into ...
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Cost of unrestricted sprites

All the game consoles of the second through fourth generations, and several early home computers, had sprites, which were valuable though costly, e.g. the VIC-II spent 2/3 to 3/4 of its area on ...
9
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2answers
393 views

Were expansion slots fundamentally incompatible with FCC regulations?

The Apple II provided the ability to connect to your TV (as opposed to purchasing a dedicated monitor). However, at that time, the FCC criterion for applying stringent RF emission limits was 'device ...
10
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3answers
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Cost of dynamic versus static RAM in the early days

Early pioneers building memory cards for personal computers, tended to use static RAM, because it's quite a bit easier to get to work. Later, dynamic RAM became de rigueur, for the simple and ...
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3answers
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Did multiplexed address/data lines make memory access slower?

Looking at the pinout of e.g. the 8088, it multiplexes the data lines onto eight of the address lines; presumably the designers judged that being able to squeeze the chip into a 40-pin package, would ...
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2answers
584 views

Did the BBC ask for any unusual key colors on the BBC Micro?

Perhaps the most visually distinctive feature of the BBC Micro is the row of red function keys on the keyboard. I don't know who came up with that. I could swear I read somewhere that the BBC asked ...
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2answers
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What was the title safe area on PAL TV sets?

Computers that used TV sets for display, needed to worry about the title safe area. By consensus, on NTSC sets, it was 200 scan lines, or 192 if you wanted to play it really safe. What was the ...
3
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1answer
623 views

How much did it cost to develop the Z80 CPU?

How much did it cost, in dollars at the time, to develop the Zilog Z80 CPU? According to Wikipedia, The Z80 is an 8-bit microprocessor introduced by Zilog as the startup company's first product. ...
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804 views

Did the Oric-1 improve on the Spectrum's keyboard?

So I've been whiling away some of a quiet Saturday night reading up on an early eighties computer called the Oric-1, which seems to be a curious little machine that has been largely unsung; moderately ...
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1answer
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Were single-sided floppy drives really more tolerant of rough handling?

The Osborne 1 was a luggable computer that contained a pair of 5.25-inch floppy drives. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1 Adam Osborne decided to use single-sided disk drives out ...
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1answer
710 views

How many cards could you put on an S-100 bus?

The S-100 bus was something of an industry standard in the 1970s, for 8080 and Z80 computers built on a backplane design. It was invented with the Altair 8800, which apparently provided 16 or 18 ...
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1answer
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What is the history of the Intel 8275 video controller?

The highly popular at the time build-it-yourself home computer Radio 86RK, designed in the Soviet Union, contained a rather mysterious video controller chip KR580VG75. It had a high end, feature rich ...
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2answers
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What was the world's first computer role-playing game?

Role-playing games are distributed in various digital & non-digital formats AFAIK. What was the world's first computer RPG? It was written from scratch or was an adaption of a pen-and-paper RPG?
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6answers
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Did any computer allow overscan on a CRT monitor?

The issue doesn't arise on today's LCD screens, but on a CRT screen, because the edges are slightly curved, and you might not be able to be sure exactly how the individual screen is tweaked, it's not ...
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4answers
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Are there statements from IBM insiders revealing why OS/2 was dropped?

In the early to mid-90s I was an OS/2 user and supporter. The operating system was originally jointly developed by both Microsoft and IBM. Both companies claimed it was the future, including public ...
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3answers
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How did 36-bit computers format ARPANET packets?

The contract to develop ARPANET, the first version of the Internet, was awarded in 1969; usage of the system expanded exponentially through the seventies. The size and format of ARPANET packets were ...
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2answers
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What was the screen refresh rate of the Lisa and original Macintosh?

According to https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Joining_Apple_Computer The Apple II displayed white text on a black background. I argued that to do graphics properly ...
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0answers
122 views

When was the "Director" role added to Game Development? [closed]

Obviously, crediting a "Director" was borrowed from the cinema industry. It was a new trend in computer game development in the late 1980s and early 1990s to embrace the story-telling aspect of a ...
10
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3answers
474 views

When was the first tri-state IC produced?

This was prompted by a question on the electronics site (which was asking why only an open collector variant of a particularly old part existed and how it could be part of a data bus). This was a ...
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2answers
895 views

What PC graphics tech outperformed Sega Dreamcast in 1999?

The Sega Dreamcast was released in 1999 (1998 in Japan) at just the time that the competition for 3D graphics on PCs was intensifying. It's my assumption that a high-end 1999 Pentium II PC with 3Dfx ...
10
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1answer
323 views

Why were index register contents on IBM 7090 subtracted in forming the effective address?

On IBM 709/7090/7094 mainframes, the effective address of an instruction could be modified by the contents of an index register specified in the instruction encoding. That much is a fairly standard ...
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1answer
6k views

What was the first operating system called DOS?

MS-DOS a.k.a. PC-DOS nee QDOS, was commonly just referred to as DOS. But 'disk operating system' is a very obvious acronym; there must have been previous operating systems so called. What was the ...
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Did any 360-compatible machine implement registers in core?

In the early days of transistors, when they cost on the order of a dollar each, it was possible to implement CPU registers with magnetic cores (the technology used for main memory at the time) instead ...
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1answer
157 views

What was the first company to sell an IBM compatible punchcard reader?

Punchcards were the primary way to get information into computers up through the sixties. The familiar eighty column format was designed by IBM, and was a factor in the later de facto standard eighty ...
14
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1answer
514 views

What is the "Data Language" paper referenced in RFC 309?

RFC 309 is an announcement of the 1972 Data and File Transfer Workshop announcement. The suggested reading section has 12 entries, 11 of which are RFCs and the last of which is: 8. Data ...
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4answers
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Was there a clearly identifiable "first computer" to use or demonstrate the use of virtual memory?

The NPR.org news article and podcast How The World Has Changed! Science During The 40 Years Of 'Morning Edition' includes the photo below with the caption Before the introduction of the personal ...
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1answer
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What was the first operating system that supported preemptive multitasking?

What was the first operating system that supported preemptive multitasking? By preemptive multitasking I mean that user processes were able to run in a time-sliced manner without special programming, ...
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2answers
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Why is the 'echo' command called 'echo'?

This is an essentially trivial question, but anyway: several operating systems have a command to display a specified text string on the terminal, or standard out, or whatever (depends on system to ...
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2answers
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ASCII ASA X3.4-1963 and Finite State Machines?

I'm reviewing the historical original ASCII standard. There are many control characters. Does anyone know the history of them and where finite state machines that made use of them may be documented? ...
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1answer
334 views

Estimating contents of old printed circuit boards

I am sorry, if this is not a good place to ask, but is there any general rule of thumb about how much precious metals could you expect to get out from 197x(?) printed circuit boards, especially Soviet ...
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2answers
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Could you use uppercase or special characters in a password in early Unix?

This article is about Ken Thompson's old Unix password hash being cracked. One line in the article intrigues: "Even an exhaustive search over all lower-case letters and digits took several days (...
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1answer
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When was the famous "sudo warning" introduced? Under what background? By whom?

On all Unix-like operating systems, sudo is often provided as the standard package for executing commands as superuser (or an alternative user). When sudo is invoked by the user for the first time, ...
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1answer
3k views

What computer has the longest uptime? [closed]

Inspired by a YouTube video I saw recently that claims a very high uptime for the computers on the Voyager probes, I was curious -- what computer currently has the longest continuous runtime? For the ...

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