Questions tagged [history]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
19
votes
1answer
765 views

Which computers had features added purely for tax reasons?

I was recently reading about the Amstrad CPC 472, which was a CPC 464 with an extra, unusable 8KB of RAM added to avoid Spanish import fees on computers with 64KB or less. Did any other computers have ...
3
votes
0answers
215 views

How many CP/M machines ever shipped? [closed]

How many machines for which CP/M was the primary operating system (so not counting the Commodore 128) ever shipped? I would also be interested in knowing how many S-100 machines ever shipped. I get ...
12
votes
1answer
564 views

What was the first dedicated core router?

From 1969 up through the early 80s, the Internet used general-purpose Honeywell minicomputers for its core routers. At some point after that, purpose-built machines started being used. What was the ...
31
votes
4answers
5k views

What was the IBM PC cost saving for using the 8088 vs 8086?

The decision to use the 8088, a version of the 8086 with the data bus restricted to 8 bits, in the original IBM PC, seems strange on the face of it, certainly hurt performance and intuitively shouldn'...
11
votes
2answers
288 views

How did the early UPC barcode readers work?

According to the history of barcodes, the idea of consumer product barcodes appeared before the microprocessor era. What was the implementation plan then? Would each store need a mini-computer in a ...
4
votes
1answer
481 views

How much did different kinds of ports cost to add to a 1980's home computer? [closed]

These days it's mostly converged on USB, but in the old days computers tended to have lots of different kinds of ports. In particular, I'm interested in: 9-pin serial 25-pin serial parallel printer ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

How much did the 6502 and Z80 cost?

It is said that the 6502 was cheaper than the Z80. As of 1978, what were the actual prices of the two chips, in wholesale quantity?
9
votes
1answer
375 views

When were the various frequency Z80 CPUs introduced?

The Z80 was introduced, as I understand it, at a clock speed of 2 MHz. Later, Z80-based computers at 3.5 MHz started showing up. In what year did this faster clock speed become available? (In ...
6
votes
2answers
189 views

Is the terminal number fixed?

Let's say that we have a PDP-11 computer with Unix installed on it and we have three terminals connected to it: A terminal can use the tty Unix command to get the terminal number. Now my question is:...
30
votes
5answers
4k views

Could you see what you are typing in a Teletype?

I have read that the early terminals were Teletypes, for example: So you send your input to the (large) computer, and then you receive the result which gets printed on paper I suppose. But could you ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the version of Unix and the name of the computer it run on in this 1982 video?

I am learning about the history of computers, and based on what I know so far, Unix was run on a large computer, and in order to use it, you have to use a computer terminal. Does anybody knows what ...
0
votes
1answer
353 views

Is this story true about Digital and Altavista [closed]

I read or heard a long time ago that when Altavista was the market leader of internet search, the decision-makers at Digital Corporation didn't know what it was and didn't realize that they were the ...
19
votes
3answers
965 views

What other computers used this floating-point format?

I have discovered that the DEC PDP-10 used a floating-point format that differed from IEEE-754 in an interesting way. IEEE-754 is like sign-magnitude representation. The only difference between a ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

What was the first CPU with exposed pipeline?

Quoting from Programming for Performance exercise: early versions of the MIPS processor had an "exposed pipeline" (that is, the assembly language programmer needed to know the latencies of ...
19
votes
1answer
584 views

When was the relocatable object module invented?

During the time when programming was done in machine codes, there was no need for object modules; it just wouldn't make sense. People would write the whole program they needed to run in "zeroes and ...
18
votes
2answers
1k views

First computer emulator in Windows

I released my ZX Spectrum emulation Wspecem, and GPL sources first time publicly in the Internet at large, the 15th May 1996, for Windows 95. I am quite sure it was the first ZX Spectrum emulation ...
19
votes
5answers
1k views

What was the first computer to support Arabic writing?

Looking at early microcomputers, all of them have support for something resembling ASCII, occasionally a few letters with accents and things were included also. And occasionally another alphabet such ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

What was the first mass-market, 16-bit microcomputer system?

To qualify what I mean by "16-bit microcomputer system", I am talking about a system that has not only a 16-bit (or 32-bit) microprocessor CPU, but also a 16-bit wide external data bus connected to ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Was it Microsoft that started the war between Application and OS vendors?

I think there is a long history of application vendors going to great lengths to complain or litigate against Operating System vendors to compete fairly. Specifically, I am talking about "fairness" ...
21
votes
4answers
4k views

What was the first piece of software to be called an engine?

Nowadays I hear a lot about graphics engines, game engines, physics engines etc. but don't remember the term being used much, if at all, back in the 80s and the 8-bit era. I'm not including Charles ...
9
votes
3answers
709 views

What is the first computer architecture that knew code from data?

The CPU being able to tell code and data apart to prevent inadvertent or malicious execution of data as instructions by trapping (even if the bit pattern of the data can be interpreted as a valid ...
7
votes
5answers
567 views

How did a punchcard-based test-taking system work?

A punchcard (in 3 fragments) has been found in a copy of Computer Programming: A Mixed Language Approach by Marvin L. Stein and William D. Munro (1965). If my guess is right, a test-taker would write ...
8
votes
1answer
388 views

Selling computers via dealers and the mass market

As discussed in Origin of dealer networks, the two main ways to sell computers are, and particularly were in the old days, Three digit price tag sold to individuals => mass market, department stores ...
27
votes
10answers
2k views

Limiting factor on early color palettes

Early color computers typically had a limit of X colors used simultaneously from a palette of Y, a classic example being the Commodore 64 which could do 320x200 monochrome or 160x200 four colors, ...
7
votes
4answers
445 views

Cost of expansion slots

Among other early computers, the Apple II and IBM PC made the consequential decision to provide internal expansion slots. How much did this add to manufacturing cost? Intuitively, it seems like it ...
8
votes
3answers
427 views

Origin of dealer networks

Roughly speaking, the two main ways to sell computers are, and particularly were in the old days, Three digit price tag sold to individuals => mass market, department stores and suchlike. Four digit ...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

Did all NES “Black Box” games come in carts with five screws?

When the NES was released, there were a list of original titles from Nintendo such as Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. These titles came in a distinctive box that was mostly black. Plus, the ...
9
votes
2answers
346 views

S-100 bus and device drivers

It is said that the S-100 bus provided a standard hardware format for expansion cards across many models of computers, including ones using different system software and even different CPUs. Having ...
51
votes
12answers
11k views

What early home computers have more than one CPU, where both could be used by the programmer? [closed]

I am interested to know if any computers that are on-topic for this site had more than one CPU, where this plurality could be leveraged by a programmer. Some cases I don't so much care about: The ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Historical cost of computing (when was $1/FLOPS crossed?)

The relevant Wikipedia page has a large gap between 1961 and 1984, not allowing to estimate, even approximately, in what year the symbolic threshold of $1/FLOPS (or, as the wiki table puts it, $1bn/...
13
votes
2answers
778 views

Historical price of ROM

Historical price charts for RAM are quite readily available, e.g. in the mid-seventies a ballpark figure was a penny a byte. What was the price of ROM (assuming you were getting the chips produced in ...
7
votes
4answers
834 views

Magnetic tapes as a random access medium?

A two-part question: How widespread in legacy systems was the practice of using magnetic tapes as a genuinely random access medium at the OS level by pre-formatting them in a way before the first use,...
12
votes
3answers
565 views

Which programming systems used object files on punch cards?

In a batch programming system developed in the late 1960s - early 1970s at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in the city of Dubna near Moscow, it was possible to dump object files to punch ...
5
votes
1answer
353 views

When were floating point rounding modes first implemented?

It appears that at least some pre-IEEE 754 computers had only one hardwired floating point rounding mode, e.g. away from zero as in PDP-11 (page 154 of PDF). Which historical architectures were the ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Were people building FPGAs out of TTL logic prior to the first sales in 1984?

My experience growing up was that my Dad would program 'EEPROMs' or Flash ROMs from his Apple IIGS. (I don't know if that is similar to an FPGA or not). He used these in custom wire-wrap computers he ...
15
votes
10answers
3k views

Were people building CPUs out of TTL logic prior to the 4004, 8080 and the 6800?

I've just finished reading Charles Petzold's book, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software. In it Charles explains building relays into gates, gates into logic components, and ...
13
votes
2answers
476 views

Do any interesting POP-2 programs survive?

On a disk image (which I had for many years) from a BESM-6, I've suddenly found a working POP-2 (POPLAN) interpreter (for all these years I'd considered that area as useless bits and pieces of various ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Actual code written by Ada Lovelace?

I have seen some claims that Ada Lovelace was the first programmer. Is there any actual code to back this up?
15
votes
8answers
2k views

How were bugs reported for compilers that shipped on and were installed via floppy disks?

Take the Microsoft C 1.0 compiler for example. It shipped on multiple 5.25" 360K disks, and when it ran on machines without internal hard disk, so users had to switch floppies between the editor, ...
61
votes
7answers
14k views

Where did the popularity of the `i` variable come from?

I have heard that the reason the i variable is used so much is because there was an old computer where each variable could only be a single letter and that reserved the variables a through h as ...
26
votes
3answers
3k views

What was the first operating system to feature a separate kernel?

Kernels are programs that abstract the hardware of a computer to some extent, allowing other programs to use standardised system calls (e.g. malloc) to perform hardware tasks (e.g. writing to memory, ...
24
votes
4answers
3k views

What register size did early computers use?

Prompted by this question querying the prevalence of byte-addressable memory on machines with 32 bit registers: Why is every address in a micro-controller only 8 bits in size? I'm familiar with the ...
12
votes
2answers
3k views

Computer graphics before the modern GPU [closed]

Modern computers use a graphics processing unit in order to provide hardware-accelerated graphical operations. Conceptually, I am used to thinking about graphics as a bidimensional array of ...
11
votes
1answer
543 views

Why is the 8254's default rate 18.2 Hz?

The Intel 8253/8254 timer, in its default configuration, triggers IRQ0 18.2 times per second. Why this strange rate, and not something like 60 Hz (to match the most common video refresh rate) or 100 ...
20
votes
1answer
570 views

Logo of a bow tie guy with a spoon

I was in the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley last week, and I saw this badge. I know I've seen that logo somewhere before, but I can't remember where! Does anyone know where it's from?
40
votes
8answers
7k views

What was the first programming book

I'm curious, what was the first book, about programming for digital computers. I tried to google it, but it led me to multiple results. I'm mostly interested in the language it was about and the ...
32
votes
1answer
2k views

What soviet computer used trinary bits?

Discussing 'non-standard byte sizes' with co-workers today, one mentioned hearing of soviet experiments with computers that used three-state bytes - and not just what is common today, 0, 1 and High ...
21
votes
5answers
3k views

Over its lifetime, how many Apple II computers were sold?

It would be nice to break it down by model if possible.
32
votes
5answers
2k views

Why did the Bell 103 modem use a data rate of 300 bps?

Virtually every telephone modem in existence runs at a data rate that's a multiple of the Bell 103A's 300 bps. Why was the base 300 bps chosen in the first place?
43
votes
11answers
6k views

What is the oldest computer capable of running a modern version of GNU/Linux?

A bit of a trivia question: What is the oldest hardware capable of running a modern Linux-based operating system, including user-space? (Not necessarily GNU userspace, but running a standard GNU/Linux ...