Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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Is there an established name for this group of CPUs?

There is a group of 8-bit CPUs, starting with the Datapoint 2200, which includes the Intel 8080 and 8085, the Z80, the LR35902, the KR580VM1, the Rabbit 2000, and others. It seems like an obvious ...
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36 votes
3 answers
8k views

What was the first operating system to be called an "operating system"?

According to Wikipedia, the first operating system was GM-NAA I/O, produced in 1956 by General Motors' Research division for its IBM 704. According to Merriam-Webster and Etymonline, the term "...
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10 votes
1 answer
362 views

What's the story behind IBM's SKU numbers?

Big Blue IBM seemingly since forever is using a fixed numbering scheme for all their parts, where every little thing, dingus and gizmo is labeled with the so-called IBM SKU#. It's always in the form: ...
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23 votes
2 answers
4k views

What is a "sympathetic bit"?

I am reading about BIOS in Phil Storrs PC Hardware book: What happens when we turn on a PC ? Next comes the incremental check of all the RAM memory. The RAM memory is written to, and read from, with ...
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30 votes
2 answers
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Correct pronunciation of `vi` (Unix editor)?

According to this video with Brian Kernighan, the correct pronunciation of the classical Unix editor ed is "Eee. Dee." — not "Edd". So that made me wonder — what about the other ...
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54 votes
4 answers
7k views

Why is slash so commonly used in old systems' abbreviations?

Many things around the '80s or earlier use ‘/’ in their abbreviations and sometimes even in their names, for example IBM PS/2, OS/2 and PS/2 port CP/M - MP/M - PL/M - PL/I - PL/S - PL/8 along with CP/...
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22 votes
3 answers
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Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

Did somebody famous coin the term? Where does it originate from? I have it heard many times over the years. I wonder if there is a neat bit of trivia associated with the term?
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48 votes
6 answers
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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 ...
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29 votes
4 answers
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What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

When reading techy articles about older Windows versions I often come across the term "Virtual machine". Apparently even Windows 3.11 had some sort of virtual-machine-thing going on in it, ...
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5 votes
3 answers
512 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?
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7 votes
4 answers
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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"...
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34 votes
3 answers
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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&...
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17 votes
1 answer
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 ...
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8 votes
1 answer
360 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?
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8 votes
2 answers
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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?
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10 votes
2 answers
753 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 ...
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14 votes
2 answers
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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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39 votes
8 answers
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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?
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15 votes
3 answers
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 ...
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11 votes
2 answers
677 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 ...
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45 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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23 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
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6 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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2 votes
2 answers
353 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 ...
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17 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
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11 votes
1 answer
307 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 ...
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6 votes
1 answer
249 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?
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58 votes
19 answers
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" ...
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6 votes
3 answers
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 ...
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11 votes
1 answer
165 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" ...
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4 votes
2 answers
678 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 ...
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4 votes
1 answer
335 views

What did "double track" mean 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 ...
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13 votes
4 answers
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 ...
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78 votes
9 answers
12k 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 ...
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27 votes
1 answer
7k 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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4 votes
2 answers
812 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, ...
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24 votes
1 answer
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 ...
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5 votes
1 answer
361 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 ...
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57 votes
4 answers
14k 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 ...
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20 votes
3 answers
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 ...
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52 votes
1 answer
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 ...
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20 votes
7 answers
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 ...
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1 vote
2 answers
573 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 ...
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3 votes
7 answers
741 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 ...
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1 vote
0 answers
215 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 ...
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12 votes
2 answers
925 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, ...
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2 votes
4 answers
2k 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. ...
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29 votes
4 answers
9k 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 ...
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14 votes
4 answers
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 ...
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35 votes
8 answers
12k 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 ...
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