Questions tagged [terminology]

For questions about words, phrases and definitions that are specific to classic computers and gaming systems.

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48
votes
6answers
7k views

What is a Dumb Terminal?

There seems to be some confusion what a 'Dumb' terminal is as visible in answers and comments to this question about portable dumb terminals. So: What is a Dumb Terminal? Points that would help to ...
5
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3answers
445 views

Did Intel syntax for x86 assembly come from an Intel assembler?

I'm wondering where the so-called Intel syntax for x86 assembly came from. Did Intel release their own assembler for chips like the 8086 or do we just mean the syntax they used in the manuals?
7
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4answers
456 views

Is "component video" synonymous with "RGB"?

Before asking this, I read the Wikipedia article. I've been confused about this for many, many years. I'd like to finally get it straightened out. What exactly is the difference between "RGB"...
34
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3answers
5k views

Was the term "master" in source code management systems first used with the sense of master/replica or master/slave?

In recent years there has been a push by some to move away from using the term "master" in source code management systems, often by renaming the "master" branch to a "main&...
17
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1answer
2k views

In what year did term "program" first appear in the meaning of "series of coded instructions"?

I'm trying to figure out year when the term "program" was firstly used is the meaning ‘a series of coded instructions which directs a computer in carrying out a specific task’. Additionally ...
8
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1answer
336 views

Who called it "microchip" first?

We all know how Kilby at TI and Noyce at Fairchild invented the integrated circuit. But who called it microchip? Chip?
8
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2answers
1k views

What does it mean to byte swap or split a ROM image?

I'd like to understand: What does it mean to "byte swap" when burning kickstart or extended ROMs? Is it the same as "splitting" the ROM? How is it done and why?
10
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2answers
736 views

What's a good term for "instruction cycle count-accurate" emulation / simulation?

Emulation is called cycle-accurate if the original system's cycle-synchronous behaviour is fully captured; for example, a cycle-accurate emulation of a CPU, executing an instruction, would first ...
14
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2answers
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 ...
39
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8answers
11k views

Why is EEPROM called ROM if it can be written to?

Is there a historical reason? Since it is rewritable it isn't read only by definition, so why call it so?
15
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3answers
3k views

When was the phrase "sufficiently smart compiler" first used?

In discussions and arguments about programming language design, one often hears comments about "sufficiently smart" compilers, as in "X needn't be inefficient, since a sufficiently ...
11
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2answers
630 views

What was the earliest use of |> pipe in programming?

I am trying to find which language used the |> operator first. It's being discussed for use in R, and it's been in OCaml for some years. Did it originate in OCaml? If not, what are its earliest ...
45
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2answers
5k views

Why are paddles called paddles?

A paddle is a sort of input device, common on early video game consoles and home computers, consisting of a handheld wheel with one or more fire buttons. Unlike dial boxes, which spin freely, paddles ...
23
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3answers
5k views

Distinction between scientific and business computing

Wikipedia's page on the IBM System/360 family claims that a distinction once existed between business and scientific computers. The model 44 in particular was designed for scientific work and was set ...
6
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2answers
4k views

What does "ByteSwapped" and "BigEndian" refer to in the context of video game ROMs?

I have found two different sets of Nintendo 64 ROMs with the same games (which, of course, I physically own). One is labeled "ByteSwapped" and the other "BigEndian". What exactly ...
2
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2answers
331 views

What is a 4002's "RAM Status Character"?

I was looking at this emulator of a Intel 4004, and I noticed something with the RAM. It had something called "Status Chars". There were 4 of them per memory line and all were 4-bit numbers ...
16
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3answers
2k views

Where did the the term "chrome," referring to onscreen decorations, originate?

To most people today "chrome" probably sounds like a reference to the web browser; but at least in Microsoft contexts I've read "chrome" to refer to window decorations - like the ...
11
votes
1answer
286 views

When was the term Multics (operating system) coined and by whom?

From the history of Multics, I found that Project MAC was established on July 1, 1963 by MIT for the development of the Multics operating system and later GE (General Electric) and AT&T's Bell ...
6
votes
1answer
230 views

When was term "word" first used as reference to CPU max register size

I've tried to find information when term 'word' was firstly used. And it seems that even ENIAC used this term. Is it safe to say that term 'word' was invented with ENIAC?
58
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19answers
18k views

Why were computer customers called "Users"?

The term User for computer hardware and software customers has been universal for as long as I can remember. It has always applied to both hardware and software customers - There were "Lotus Users" ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

What are D64, T64, D71 and D81 files?

The docs for the Ultimate-II+ expansion cartridge for the Commodore 64 state: It is able to read D64 files, as well as D71 and D81 files (no partitions), T64 files. So what are D64, T64, D71 and D81 ...
11
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1answer
150 views

In TRS-80 parlance when talking about disks, what are "granules" and "lumps"?

In my reading to try to learn about the disk layout, directory, and boot process of TRS-80 Model I and Model III, I see some unusual words come up again and again. Along with the common terms "track" ...
4
votes
2answers
646 views

What was a "Windows protection error"?

Back in the day, I had a Windows 98 machine (don't recall the hardware right now) and sometimes it would crash with the "Windows protection error. You need to restart your computer" error. So, what ...
0
votes
1answer
185 views

What did "double track" meaning in relation to floppy disks?

I mostly used 3½″ floppies back in the day but I also used 5¼″ floppies to some extent on Apple II's and TRS-80's. I was never exposed to 3″ floppy disks as used mainly on Amstrad microcomputers and ...
13
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4answers
2k views

Is it a Directory, a List, or a Catalogue?

There are three common CLI commands on microcomputers that all mean the same thing: "Show me the contents of a volume, disk, or sub-directory". I will mention that the noun "Catalogue", and the ...
76
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9answers
11k views

Why is the processor instruction called "move", not "copy"?

Many processors have an instruction called "move" (sometimes spelled MOV) which copies data from one location (the "source") to another (the "destination") in registers and/or memory. It does not do ...
4
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2answers
722 views

ZX Spectrum: What is the "T" state value, with reference to sound?

I have that awesome book - Zx Spectrum ROM Disassembled (correct the title if I got it wrong), where the author wrote about the audio code in the ROM and referring to "T" state, "... T200... T5000, ...
24
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1answer
3k views

What is a dropfile?

After reading Charles Duffy's comment on Was there a clearly identifiable "first computer" to use or demonstrate the use of virtual memory?: I had a computer science professor around 1999 ...
5
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1answer
351 views

First use of "destructuring" in computing?

Which programming system first introduced "destructuring" denoting accessing various parts of an object using some sort of pattern, and binding those parts to variables, like Common Lisp's ...
56
votes
4answers
13k views

On DOS computers, what would the PARK command do?

In 1994 or so, we had an old computer at my primary school. I remember finding out that it had a park command. From reading its documentation, it said that this command should be executed prior to ...
18
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3answers
9k views

Why was the Sega Genesis marketed as a 16-bit console?

The Sega Genesis / Mega Drive's main CPU, the Motorola 68000, was a 32-bit processor. Couldn't Sega have marketed the console as a 32-bit device? Or is there a technical distinction about how the ...
50
votes
1answer
6k views

Why do we use caret (^) as the symbol for ctrl/control?

From my understanding, the caret character (^) has been used to indicate Ctrl-key combinations since the early UNIX days, if not earlier. Why was this character used to indicate this? Was it simply ...
20
votes
7answers
17k views

What does the "x" in "x86" represent?

I have read the following in the x86 Wikipedia page: The term "x86" came into being because the names of several successors to Intel's 8086 processor end in "86", including the 80186, 80286, 80386 ...
1
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2answers
562 views

Why did Steve Jobs say that Darwin is a kernel? [closed]

In this video, Steve Jobs introduces Mac OS X (in the year 2000), this is a snapshot from the video: He says that Darwin is the kernel for Mac OS X. Now the following is a diagram of the Mac OS X ...
3
votes
7answers
726 views

Name for rotary dial controllers?

Many years ago I was watching the news when I saw someone on a Sun workstation controlling the display using an external input device consisting of a series of rotary dials. Turning them rotated and ...
1
vote
0answers
214 views

Why does Oracle use MINUS instead of EXCEPT? [closed]

I just saw this after seeing MINUS in this powerpoint and looking for more information. MINUS Example The following statement combines results with the MINUS operator, which returns only unique rows ...
12
votes
2answers
892 views

Origin of "tarball"

It seems to be common (at least among my section of the world's *NIX users) to refer to "tape archives" made with GNU tar or similar as "tarballs". I always thought this was a slightly odd choice, ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

What we commonly call PCs are in fact ATs, correct?

I remember all those video game boxes stamped with IBM PC (and compatible), while bringing good memories I felt this was rather incorrect. Most of these games would never run on such computers, i.e. ...
29
votes
4answers
8k views

What's the difference between "opcode" and "instruction" in this Zilog ad?

In a Zilog ad from 1976 comparing the Z80 and Intel 8080, the following table is presented: What is the difference here between "Instructions" and "OP Codes"? In my experience, the two terms are ...
14
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4answers
1k views

What are tacts in the context of ZX Spectrum systems?

I've heard the term tacts when referring to some hardware capability, e.g. "tacts on one frame" or "tacts per second". I tried Googling this but surprisingly did not find anything relevant. What is ...
35
votes
8answers
11k views

Why do articles use the term "UART" instead of "serial port"?

I am learning about old computers, and I have found the following image from this article: They use the terms "UART" instead of "serial port" and "UART driver" instead of "serial port driver", I have ...
25
votes
5answers
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 ...
102
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16answers
23k views

Does "Disk Operating System" imply that there was a "non-disk" Operating System?

In the 1980's at primary school we saw MS-DOS and DR DOS competing before Windows 3.1 and subsequent releases took over that space. At home we had Apple II's which booted up to a BASIC prompt. On ...