Questions tagged [software]

For questions about the applications and programs that can be run on retro devices (computers, etc.)

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90
votes
16answers
22k views

How was early randomness generated?

Many programs make use of randomness, from BASIC guess-the-number games to encryption key generators. This randomness could have been generated in many, many different ways: hardware, software, ...
82
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20answers
17k views

Have programming languages driven hardware development?

Programming language development has been influenced by hardware design. One example from this answer mentions how C pointers were, at least in part, influenced by the design of the PDP-11. Has the ...
71
votes
2answers
16k views

Why does the Minus World exist?

In Super Mario Bros. for the NES and Famicom there exists a secret world, accessible by clipping through a wall to the first warp zone and entering the left-most pipe. This pipe will take you to ...
59
votes
11answers
16k views

Did Apple not originally allow anyone to develop software for the Macintosh?

This probably nearly belongs on Skeptics.SE but here goes. Within the last few years I've become an Apple convert for the most part, which occasionally brings me into (usually) good natured conflict ...
49
votes
3answers
7k views

What was Nintendo's Software Development Environment for NES Games?

(This question was inspired by my previous question What kind of software was used to develop Nintendo 64 titles?) The NES used a modified 6502 processor and most games were written in Assembly. ...
45
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11answers
17k views

Why not use fractions instead of floating point?

Considering all those early home computers, the ZX Spectrum, the Galaksija, the VIC-20, the Apple I/II/III, and all of those, they all have some 8-bit CPU which does integer arithmetic and no floating ...
34
votes
1answer
6k views

Why does the kill-screen glitch occur in Pac-man?

Pac-man is a game where you navigate a small yellow circle around a maze, collecting dots and fruit whilst avoiding brightly-coloured monsters, or ghosts. As long as there was at least one 'man left, ...
27
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3answers
2k views

What are the differences between a PAL and NTSC C64?

A lot of programs released for the Commodore 64 contained different software for the PAL or NTSC computer. Why did they have different versions of the hardware? Did the software have to be different ...
24
votes
17answers
6k views

Was self-modifying code possible using BASIC?

Was self-modifying-code possible using BASIC? Parameters: On commonly affordable home-computers before 1984 Code that changes its own instructions while it is executing Using BASIC only Not using ...
22
votes
4answers
4k views

Why did Pokémon Red have so many overflow bugs?

(This question also applies to other Game Boy games, but Pokémon seems to be one of the best-documented.) Pokémon Red & Blue (Red & Green in Japan) is a pair of Game Boy games about capturing ...
22
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2answers
3k views

How did Windows ME “cripple” DOS?

Windows ME includes the ability to create a bootable DOS floppy. This floppy contains versions of COMMAND.COM and IO.SYS that are "crippled" to remove real mode. This is done with only one changed ...
21
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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 ...
20
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3answers
2k views

How did Elite (BBC Micro) compress resources?

Elite, an Acornsoft game for the BBC Micro, is a game in space. Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.     -- Douglas Adams ...
19
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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?
19
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4answers
609 views

Where can I find software for the PDP-6?

We are planning to build a reconstruction of the PDP-6. The project is making a lot of progress, but currently we have a critical lack of software. Does anybody know where we can find software to run ...
19
votes
1answer
3k views

What kind of software was used to develop Nintendo 64 titles?

There seems to be a lot of discussion online about the development hardware used to create Nintendo 64 titles: SGI Indy "pizza box" workstations, SGI's custom Ultra 64 development boards (aka "...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

How did “full memory” Spectrum tape copiers work?

There are some tape copiers, such as LERM that claim to be able to copy tapes which contain software that takes the full 48kbyte of RAM. However, this seems impossible on a Spectrum, when the whole ...
18
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2answers
4k views

First commercial DOS game?

What was the first commercial game sold for use on IBM/MS/PC DOS after the IBM August 12, 1981 release.
18
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does Ms. Pac-man turn upside down?

Ms. Pac-man is a game where you navigate a small yellow circle around a maze, collecting dots and fruit whilst avoiding brightly-coloured monsters, or ghosts. This time, however, the yellow dot has an ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

Why can you not move on the last level on Dig Dug?

The objective of Dig Dug is to eliminate underground monsters by inflating them until they pop, or by squashing them with large rocks. Once all of the monsters have escaped or been defeated, the level ...
14
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5answers
4k views

Security Issues with Bootable Games

I'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this question or Information Security, but here it goes. Certain storage mediums can also be bootable, for example USB drives or CD/DVDs. These ...
13
votes
2answers
819 views

How can I build Gameboy Development Kit 2.1.5 on a modern Unix/Mac platform?

Continuing with my quest to build the Infinity Game Boy Color source code, I am trying to build the Unix source of GBDK 2.1.5 on my macOS El Capitan machine. Trying to make the files in the lib ...
12
votes
1answer
497 views

What does Personal Paint documentation actually refer to by “unmaskable interrupt” for its “crash protection feature”?

Personal Paint was a gfx program for Amiga that introduced many novel concepts, some quite ingenious, some... controversial. Among all, it had a "crash protection" feature, that was meant to enable ...
12
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3answers
1k views

How did Atari cassette “turbo without hardware mods” work?

There were some cassette copying programs for 8-bit Atari, that boasted saving the games in a way that would load it at up to 1800baud - versus the standard 600baud, which was a significant ...
11
votes
4answers
717 views

Old school backup systems: what are they?

So being a sysadmin for several years, I learned that "Jesus saves, but God makes tape backups," several times over. Watching Season 2 of Halt and Catch Fire, there is some data loss. Being that ...
11
votes
2answers
400 views

What did disk-validator do?

...besides relabelling the disk to 'Lazarus' and helping the Saddam virus spread? I know it was supposed to 'fix' corrupted disks that were ejected during a write operation. I don't think I've seen a ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Where did Fast InvSqrt() come from?

The fast inverse square root algorithm is probably best known for its use in Quake III Arena, the source code of which was released to the public a few years after its release. However, the algorithm ...
11
votes
1answer
494 views

What API did the POKEY module provide?

The POKEY module was used in many, many Atari arcade games, including most that contained the Atari Math Box. It could be used to sample potentiometers, scan matrices of switches and, more famously, ...
11
votes
0answers
758 views

In search of… SeaWar — NOT Battleship!

Hopefully, sufficient background Many years ago (40-45), I used to play "Sea War" on a good sized time-share system. It was a text/adventure war game between a couple remote players, played over a ...
10
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2answers
1k views

What is the instruction set of the PDP-7?

The PDP-7 was a bookshelf-sized "minicomputer", with keyboard, magnetic and paper tape and printer I/O. According to Wikipedia, the first version of UNIX (then named Unics) was programmed in assembly ...
10
votes
1answer
440 views

How does one convert Atari assembly to A=USR(ADR(“[garble]”)) style BASIC wrapper?

Some small utilities, tools etc for Atari were distributed as BASIC programs that would consist of just one line, that looked something like this: 10 A=USR(ADR("p$PHHLéúÿÿÇEéúÿÿ@éüÿÿ2A$éòùÿÿE°U´è§...
10
votes
1answer
963 views

Where do command line switches originate from?

In Linux we have command line switches traditionally started with minus ls -al. In Windows those start with slash dir /b. I remember that on RSX-11M that I used to deal with and later on RT-11 the ...
9
votes
1answer
777 views

Was there a 'git' in the 1990s?

I seem to remember using a source code control system back in the early- to mid-1990s called git. Am I nuts? I used to work at IBM way back then. We didn't use it for a big project, but I distinctly ...
9
votes
2answers
337 views

Can 6502 programs be transliterated to the SPC700?

The SPC700's instruction set is derived from the 6502's, but moves the instructions around and adds a few. But is it fully backwards compatible? Assuming that the program fully separates data and ...
9
votes
3answers
485 views

How can I copy software which is too large for one Atari ST floppy disk?

I have downloaded the STOS game creator from the STOS download page. I'm trying to copy the software from my computer to a floppy disk formatted on an Atari ST, but I get an error message saying the ...
8
votes
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the best way to obtain old versions of Windows?

I'm wondering what the best way obtain old versions of Windows would be, specifically: DOS Windows 95 Windows 98/SE Windows 2000/ME Windows XP Professional Windows 7 Professional Microsoft Office for ...
8
votes
1answer
276 views

How did Drive Overlay programs break BIOS disk barriers on older PCs?

I was just reading a thread on Vogons about OnTrack and EZ-Drive setup, and it occurred to me that I have no idea how they work. Please explain why the barrier existed and then how the overlay ...
7
votes
1answer
408 views

Colorful print ad in ca. 1990 magazine

I'm trying to find a software ad in a comic book style that I remember from one of my father's computer magazines in the early 1990s. I know this is a long shot, but somebody might recall it or even ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the (usually lower quality) “software rendering” mode visible in so many “second-generation” FPS games?

During a conversation, a friend of mine sent me this picture: It's the first Thief (I guess), with so-called software rendering. I already experienced this effect in Quake 1-2 and to an extent, in ...
6
votes
5answers
810 views

Does a market/shop with fully legal 8-bit software/games exist? [closed]

Currently about all of "8-bit micro" games that I know is either abandonware (which is a gray area) or free fan works. But is there some kind of shop, market, some place where you can purchase these ...
6
votes
3answers
500 views

Identification of old text-to-speech voice/engine

I have heard it many times before, but I can't recognize where the TTS file/engine comes from. But what in do know is that it sounds very old, so it seemed appropriate to post this question here. ...
6
votes
1answer
341 views

TI-83 Series Graphing Calculator Emulator

Back in middle school I set up a Windows/DOS TI-83 calculator emulator for some of my teachers. I can't for the life of me remember the name, but I'm looking for a Mac TI-83 emulator (or any TI-8x ...
6
votes
1answer
311 views

Is there a non-paging ITS for the PDP-6 or PDP-10?

In the late 60s, the Incompatible Timesharing System ran on a PDP-6 without any paging hardware (i.e. an MMU in modern terminology). See the Jargon entry for BLT, for example, which states (my ...
6
votes
0answers
252 views

Where can I find “Nemesis II”, the sequel to “Nemesis”, an old CP/M game?

In 1981, the "Nemesis" game was released for CP/M-based machines by Super Soft Inc., with the author attribution of Michael A. Pagels and Michael Q Hiller, and artist attribution of Diana J. Bush. ...
5
votes
2answers
654 views

How were analytics gathered on software built for retrocomputing platforms?

In modern software development, it is a common practice to include some kind of analytics tracking software to see how customers are using your software, what a typical user flow of the application is,...
5
votes
2answers
240 views

In what way could the Sperry Univac BC-7 computer “speak and understand” English?

Researching for this question I ran across this 1978 advertisement for Sperry: Sperry Computer Ad 1978: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I74sVdw7gkc The computer is nicknamed "B.C." and the actor ...
5
votes
1answer
840 views

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 “DIVIDE BY ZERO” command

I was reading an Wikipedia article named "History Of Microsoft Flight Simulator" and I noticed something weird about Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0: November 1982 sometime during 1981-82 ...
5
votes
1answer
225 views

Did Radio Shack initially attempt to get a monopoly on commercial software for the TRS-80 Model I?

This question is about the era of the TRS-80 Model I, ca. 1977-1979. Originally there was no software you could buy, other than BASIC itself, which was in ROM. You would write your own, or type in ...
5
votes
1answer
311 views

What are some names of professional music software for the Macintosh Classic / SE?

I'm not asking for opinions, recommendations or reviews. I'm looking for professional, graphical music creation software for the classic line of Macintosh computers. I'm not looking for mod or ...