All Questions

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 ...
20
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
829 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 ...
33
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
74
votes
9answers
8k 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 ...
53
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
57
votes
7answers
15k 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 ...
52
votes
5answers
10k 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 ...
38
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
906 views

How to patch binaries in DOS?

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", ...
61
votes
8answers
16k 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 ...
79
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
28
votes
8answers
7k 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 ...
27
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
44
votes
8answers
10k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
952 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 ...
20
votes
1answer
712 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
944 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 ...
38
votes
2answers
7k 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'...
62
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 ...
40
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
76
votes
18answers
16k 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 ...
60
votes
5answers
13k 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 ...
20
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 ...
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 ...
42
votes
5answers
15k 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 ...
41
votes
11answers
5k 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 ...
37
votes
4answers
19k 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 ...
34
votes
4answers
7k views

What determines the color of every 8th pixel on the Apple II?

On the Apple II there's an interesting way to add a little color to the bitmap, since the high bit select the palette used for the three-and-a-half pixels represented by the byte. Like this: 0: Black,...
24
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
22
votes
6answers
3k views

ZX Spectrum tokenisation

The BASIC used in the early ZX Spectrum (and also its ZX predecessors) had this weird thing where every single BASIC token was printed onto the keyboard, and for example PRINT or LOAD were entered by ...
55
votes
3answers
10k views

Why did DOS use dollar-terminated strings?

According to a few tutorials I am seeing, DOS used dollar-terminated strings to write to the terminal. This seems to also be documented here on INT 21H. AH = 09h - WRITE STRING TO STANDARD OUTPUT ...
33
votes
8answers
9k views

Why were floppy disks invented after hard disks?

For those of us who grew up with personal computers in the 1970's or 1980's, the experience was a very gradual migration from floppy disks to hard disks as the primary persistent storage. So, based on ...
32
votes
7answers
4k views

Is it legal to download ROM images from shared or internet archives?

Is it generally legal to download older ROM images of commercial software and games for non-commercial use in a retro computing system (emulated or otherwise)? (Note that this question implies no ...
23
votes
1answer
2k views

How does the command.com shell work with MS-DOS?

On my systems that are running MS-DOS, I change the default command.com to 4DOS for more features. How was the shell system designed and how did it with the operating system in MS-DOS that it enabled ...
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Use of undocumented opcodes

I figure this is fitting for Retrocomputing.SE because CPUs like the 6502 and Z80 and the PDP-8, and probably others, have undocumented instructions and will happily execute them, in contrast with ...
21
votes
2answers
637 views

How do I use shadowed memory to render Super Hi-Res quickly?

The Apple IIgs video memory is controlled by the 1MHz Mega II chip, so directly accessing the Super Hi-Res page in bank $E1 is slower than accessing other memory. How can I render in "fast" memory, ...
35
votes
1answer
3k views

How did the 8086 interface with the 8087 FPU coprocessor?

The 8087 has many instructions - too many, it seems, to be encoded as part of the 8086 instruction set. How did the Intel 8086 interface with an Intel 8087 FPU that a user added? Consider the ...
24
votes
9answers
5k views

Graphics chips in 1980

Suppose you were trying to build a computer with a color graphics display in 1980, you have limited engineering resources and time to market is critical, so you want to get as many of the parts off ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the TUBE interface of the BBC micro all about?

I keep reading of the BBC micro's tube interface that was apparently designed as a co-processor interface to the 6502. I would be interested in what were actual applications of this interface and ...
21
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
5k views

How can MS-DOS be installed on VirtualBox?

As part of the MSDN subscription I just got, I can download MS-DOS 6.22 (wow indeed). I want to install it to a VirtualBox VM so I can try old games and viruses (due to viruses, I can't install it to ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Why did the Sinclair ZX-Spectrum use a membrane keyboard?

As a kid, I always had problems with the keyboard. Membrane was hard to come by and expensive. I did not have Kempston/Protec. So I had to play on the keyboard. I was using QAOPMN combination, and ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

Z80 and video chip contending for random access

Back in the 8-bit days, I used 6502 computers, where the story about memory access was easy to understand. RAM chips of the late seventies and early eighties could do 2 MHz (or a bit more e.g. 2.6 in ...
11
votes
1answer
758 views

What 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
688 views

How to get rid of yellowing in plastics?

I have some old electronics with white plastic that's starting to turn yellow. I know it's caused by flame retardants, UV rays, and so on. How can I restore my electronics to their former color?
26
votes
10answers
2k views

What were the applications of 5/6-bit serial port formats?

Traditional PC serial ports, based on members of the 8250/16550 UART families (or their clones within SuperIO chips) support some unusual serial data formats, specifically 5- and 6-bit data, and 1.5 ...

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