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votes
9answers
11k views

What key factor led to the sudden commercial success of MS Windows with v3.0?

Microsoft Windows was originally introduced in 1985, ostensibly to compete with the Apple Macintosh, and other computers shipping with graphical shells by that time. However, early versions of Windows ...
56
votes
3answers
6k views

How does the LOADALL instruction on the 80286 work?

This undocumented instruction existed in the 80286 and, I believe, the 80386. I think it was added while debugging the chip, so the engineers could quickly put the processor into any state and test it ...
44
votes
4answers
28k views

Commodore 64 to modern TV

I've been thinking about getting a Commodore 64 machine. However, I realise there's obviously no video cables I have that will work. But when I looked online there are many people using S-Video to VGA ...
22
votes
4answers
4k views

Z8410 DMA chip as GPU?

There are basically two ways to design a 2D graphics system: Provide lots of hardware support in the form of tiles, hardware scrolling and sprites, to put together each frame on the fly from a small ...
33
votes
3answers
3k views

Reconditioning and cleaning old Nintendo (and other) game cartridges

I used to blow the dust out of the cartridges but I heard that can actually damage the cartridge or the system itself. I am looking for the proper way to clean old Nintendo game cartridges (such as ...
34
votes
3answers
7k views

What modification is required from a PC floppy for use in Amiga?

Around the end of the time of Amiga popularity, obtaining a replacement Amiga floppy drive was a nuisance, while PC drives were ubiquitous and cheap. One could install a PC drive in Amiga after ...
18
votes
7answers
1k views

Retrocomputing Software Development Process/Methodologies

This is a test question based on this meta post. If the question can be reworded to be more on-topic, please feel free to suggest improvements. This is an open ended question about software ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

What tools were used in late MS-DOS era for reverse engineering and patching binary executables?

In the late MS-DOS era, what were the state of the art software tools for reverse engineering and patching binaries, i.e. .exe and .com files? A simple list of the tools that were "state of the art", ...
82
votes
8answers
29k views

Why do C to Z80 compilers produce poor code?

When reading some other questions about compiling C for the Z80, How much benefit should be expected on a more advanced compiler for z80/r800 based computers? Native C compiler for Sinclair ZX ...
69
votes
8answers
20k views

How were the first ZX Spectrum games written?

Being a child of the 80s I loved my ZX Spectrum, did my best to learn BASIC but I felt like the games I was playing (Jetpac, Dizzy, Renegade etc) were perhaps not written using BASIC. I wondered: how ...
55
votes
5answers
12k views

Which Linux or BSD distributions do still support i386, i486 or i586 CPUs?

Unfortunately Debian kicked out Pentium 1 (i586) CPU support from its 32-bit PC port (named i386 for historic circumstances) for its next stable release Debian 9 Stretch. (Then again they complain ...
47
votes
4answers
3k views

What precautions to take when powering on old computer for the first time in years

I have a Commodore 128D that hasn't been powered in about 15 years. I want to begin using it again. It has been stored in cool dry places like attached garages, in a cardboard box. I hope this ...
7
votes
4answers
5k views

How do I create a boot menu to select between Windows and DOS?

I was not a PC user before Windows 98. But I remember one of my friends was using a boot menu in his 486 machine to select between Windows/DOS. The menu was like: 1. EMS 2. XMS 3. Windows If we ...
44
votes
7answers
9k views

Why didn't the 8086 use linear addressing?

The 8086 used a segmented memory architecture where the linear address was computed from a 16-bit segment number and a 16-bit offset. This greatly complicated things from a programming perspective. ...
43
votes
2answers
9k views

How did the Z80 instruction set differ from the 8080?

The Zilog Z80 microprocessor, known for its use in the ZX Spectrum, was designed to be a backwards-compatible extension to the Intel 8080 processor. It introduced several new instructions to the 8080'...
56
votes
3answers
13k views

Who set the 640K limit?

We all know that "640K should be enough for everyone". But who actually set this limit? The quote is often attributed to Bill Gates, but it doesn't seem like a decision for an Operating System vendor ...
63
votes
5answers
14k views

Is it safe to turn on a 40-year old TRS-80?

My father is a retired programmer. When I was in high school in the late 1970s, he purchased a TRS-80 model 1 (on which I learned to program in BASIC). At some point in the early 1980s it, together ...
91
votes
6answers
9k views

Were there 8086 coprocessors other than the 8087?

The 8087 math coprocessor for the 8086 (and descendants) nominally added floating point and transcendental (trigonometric and logarithmic) instructions to the 8086. Contrary to naive expectations, the ...
21
votes
3answers
5k views

Wiring a Zilog Z80

I've recently got hold of an old Zilog Z80 microprocessor and I know how to clock and test it. I do not however know how to connect RAM, I/O ports, control switches (for programming instructions into ...
43
votes
5answers
16k views

Why did CPU designers in the 70s prioritize reducing pin count?

A lot of 70s era microprocessors were packaged in DIP packages with 40 pins. This was a reasonably good fit for 8-bit processors: 16 address lines, 8 data lines, 2 power and clock are all absolutely ...
21
votes
2answers
4k views

The start of x86: Intel 8080 vs Intel 8086?

Why is it said that all modern Intel processors of the x86 family are said to descent from the Intel 8086 and not the Intel 8080? From the Wikipedia article on the Intel 8086, The 8086 gave rise to ...
39
votes
7answers
5k views

Why does the Commodore C128 perform poorly when running CP/M?

I have seen several claims of poor performance of the C128 when running CP/M, and would like to better understand these claims, especially in comparison to other CP/M machines of the early to mid-...
30
votes
5answers
3k views

Does every retrocomputer and console with NTSC composite output have 'artifact color' ability?

Artifact color is heavily associated with the Apple ][, since that is the only method the machine had to produce a color display. I was looking at the fantastic demo for IBM PC + CGA, 8088MPH, and I ...
28
votes
8answers
8k views

NES cartridge ROM emulation with Arduino or Pi?

I'm looking to buy or make an NES cartridge that can be controlled by a microcontroller or small computer like the Raspberry Pi. I don't want to gut an NES cart and put an NES emulator inside it (as ...
25
votes
6answers
13k views

Windows 98 with 2GB of RAM

I have assembled a retro-gaming PC out of an old Shuttle SN45G with a Windows 98/Windows XP dual boot. The motherboard can handle 2GB of RAM, but apparently Windows 98 can only handle 1Gb. Windows ...
46
votes
8answers
14k views

How long will floppy disks maintain data integrity?

This was on CNN today: The U.S. is still using floppy disks to run its nuclear program Which led me to read through this article: Think the floppy disk is dead? Think again! Here’s why it still ...
26
votes
2answers
2k views

How did an IBM 5150 with 16KB RAM work?

I keep reading that when it was first released, there was a variant of the IBM PC model 5150 that had only 16KB of RAM installed. From a hardware perspective, this would clearly work - the 5150 ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

Which undocumented 8085 instructions is Steven Morse referring to in “In The Beginning”?

In S. P. Morse's 1980 allegory, "In The Beginning", he writes And Intel said, "Let there be an 8085 with an oscillator on the same chip as the processor, and let an on-chip system controller ...
24
votes
4answers
9k views

What exactly is a cycle-accurate emulator?

Emulators such as Higan are cycle-accurate and thus have full compatibility with all existing software. In a 2011 Ars Technica article, much was said about cycle accuracy and how it preserves games by ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

Did the Intel 8086/8088 not guarantee the value of SS:SP immediately after RESET?

I'm poking at the Intel 8086/8088 (iAPX 86/88) User's Manual, which states on page 2-29 (PDF page 48), table 2-4, CPU State Following RESET, that the state of the CPU after the RESET pin rising ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

How does the 6502 implement its branch instructions?

The 6502's decode ROM takes an input which tells it when to start the next instruction. In the case of something like an INX or LDA #7F, it is obvious that once the output from the ALU has been ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Reading both keyboard and joystick with non-KERNAL code on C64

I'm implementing non-KERNAL joystick and keyboard controls for my Commodore 64 game. I used to use the KERNAL SCNKEY routine earlier to read keyboard and it worked well with my joystick port 2 code. ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

What makes slot 7 of the Apple ][ unique from 1-6 and how was this used?

In the Apple II, there are three unique slots (depending on model): Slot 0 (on the ][ / ][+) which is typically used for language cards. "Aux" slots in the //e and IIgs, typically used for memory ...
21
votes
1answer
1k views

When does the VIC-II read the sprite data?

This question is about the Commodore 64 and its graphics chip, the VIC-II. Imagine that on a particular scanline, the VIC-II needs to fetch 40 bytes (the background tiles) and since it's a badline ...
19
votes
4answers
3k views

How did integer multiplication work in 8-bit BASIC without CPU support

I've recently been teaching my 11 year old binary multiplication, which is on the UK maths syllabus at secondary school. We have used long multiplication, eg shift and add. This has made me wonder ...
18
votes
2answers
5k 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.
15
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the timeline of Motorola 6800-family CPUs from 1974 to 1979?

According to Wikipedia, The Motorola 6800 was released in 1974. Between that and the release of the 6809 in 1979 (or 1978?) there was at least one other 6800-series CPU released, the 6802 ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

How did the IBM PC handle multiple physical devices serving memory at the same physical address?

I'm trying to figure out how the IBM 5150 PC handled the case where multiple physical devices (memory chips) were mapped to the same address within the 8088's physical address space. The closest I've ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

What format is the (Timex) Sinclair ZX Spectrum SCREEN$/.SCR file

What format is the (Timex) Sinclair ZX Spectrum SCREEN$/.SCR file and how is the fore/background and attribute data encoded within this format?
6
votes
1answer
330 views

What's the difference between Kansas City tape standard and CUTS?

A number of a different computer systems use a tape encoding based on either the Kansas City or CUTS standards. There's a very brief overview on Wikipedia, but it's not clear what the difference ...
0
votes
3answers
335 views

The earliest a home-computer or home-robot could be interfaced with a commercially available camera?

What was the earliest date a home-computer or home-robot could be interfaced with a commercially available tv-camera or digital-camera . Although I'm asking this question for the purpose of computer-...
92
votes
1answer
27k views

Why did MS-DOS applications built using Turbo Pascal fail to start with a division by zero error on faster systems?

On faster MS-DOS systems, it wasn't entirely uncommon for applications built using Borland's Turbo Pascal to fail to start, and (before exiting back to the command prompt) to report a division by zero ...
31
votes
7answers
10k views

How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

As far as I understand it, the whole personal computing revolution that Microsoft Windows did was not entirely by its own design. Is it true that the Windows OS at its core was originally designed to ...
43
votes
3answers
6k views

What is between the sectors of floppy disks?

I've found this page which has an informative description of how sectors were encoded on floppy disks: http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/ibm-pc-floppy-disks-deeper-look-at-disk.html Do ...
19
votes
2answers
5k views

Which original retrocomputer OS's are still maintained and updated today, for original hardware?

I would like to know which original Operating Systems that run on retrocomputers are still being actively maintained and updated. This only applies to retrocomputer OS's that may still be used on ...
83
votes
18answers
17k views

Why was BASIC built into so many operating systems?

There are a lot of retro-computers with BASIC as an integral part of the operating system. The IBM 5100 was one of the first computers with a separate memory space for BASIC, followed by the Commodore ...
67
votes
3answers
8k views

Why did Unix use slash as the directory separator?

The Unix designers came from the GE/MIT Multics project, and Multics inspired some Unix features. In particular, Multics has a hierarchical filesystem, and so does Unix. On Multics, pathnames were of ...
59
votes
1answer
25k views

How exactly does Sonic & Knuckles' 'Lock-On Technology' work?

The cartridge of Sonic & Knuckles is a little special: It flips open to allow you to connect another Sega Mega Drive (Genesis in US) cartridge to the top of it like so: I know why the Sega ...
50
votes
3answers
9k 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. ...
44
votes
11answers
7k 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 ...

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