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41
votes
1answer
3k views

Did Windows NT 4 emulate x86 on non-Intel platforms?

I've been trying to find more information about non-Intel versions of Windows NT regarding x86 emulation but found very little about it. There is one sentence about it in the Wikipedia page but the ...
40
votes
17answers
7k views

Is there any text to speech program that will run on an 8- or 16-bit CPU?

I'm wondering if any of the ancient 1980's style text to speech algorithms were saved from oblivion and are still available. It might be nice to hear that vintage sound like what appeared in War Games....
40
votes
11answers
8k views

How did early laser printers get by with so little memory?

The first HP Laserjet only had 128K of memory. To print an area of 7.5 by 10 inches at 300 DPI requires 844K if it's kept as a single bitmapped image. Obviously they were doing something clever to ...
40
votes
4answers
4k views

How did musicians acquire samples for tracker music (MOD, S3M, XM and the like)?

Many songs in the so called "tracker" format quite popular in the early 90s (think .MOD, .S3M, .XM, .IT and the like) seemingly used sound samples from real synthesizers. This sometimes ...
40
votes
4answers
10k views

Is it true that Pentium III was faster than its successor Pentium 4?

My friend told me that earlier iterations of the Pentium 4 were not as fast as the Pentium III, but he didn't have sources. Is it true that the Pentium III was faster than its successor Pentium 4?
40
votes
3answers
4k views

How did Apple II BASIC programs protect against listing?

I seem to recall from my high-school days that certain Apple II programs protected themselves from being listed and therefore modified. If you tried to do it, the machine would simply reboot. How did ...
40
votes
2answers
10k views

Why does the original Donkey Kong update the screen in a curtain closing pattern?

For those of you who don't know, Billy Mitchell, the former Donkey Kong world record champion was caught cheating due to differences between the original Donkey Kong format, and MAME. In other words, ...
40
votes
3answers
5k views

How was a demo mode implemented in arcade machines

On many arcade machines when running in attract mode, they often show a demo gameplay. I wondered how they did this?I guess those are not pre-recorded movies, so I think that they probably ran the ...
40
votes
1answer
6k views

How did Super Mario Bros. 3 create this tunnel vision effect?

In a certain section of World 8's map, the screen is black except for a small circle surrounding Mario (as seen below during this speedrun). After doing a little research, I discovered that the game'...
40
votes
2answers
6k views

What kind of keyboard or computer am I typing on?

What am I typing on? Is it a peripheral for the ZX81 in the back, or is it a computer in its own right?
39
votes
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?
39
votes
6answers
7k views

Did any computers use the Z80B?

The Z80 was one of the most popular CPUs of the seventies and eighties. In almost all cases that I know of, the version used was the Z80A, rated for 4 MHz, sometimes clocked a little slower in order ...
39
votes
10answers
12k views

Fastest non-emulated CP/M Z80-based computer ever built?

What were the fastest CP/M computers ever built? I'll restrict this to the Z80 variant of CP/M, no CP/M-86, CP/M-68k etc. Z80 compatibles with higher clock frequencies or more instructions/clock or ...
39
votes
4answers
3k views

What was the design rationale behind multi-port and multiple connections (and back-connections) designs of the early protocols like NFS or FTP?

Originally, the FTP protocol connected back from the server to a client to actually transfer files through that new connections. 14 years later after the introduction of the FTP, the 'passive mode' ...
39
votes
8answers
11k views

Is DOS being shipped with or as an installed OS?

Given the very small size of DOS, it would seem it might still be ideal for some applications such as handheld games. Is any system manufacturer still shipping DOS with their machine? If no one is ...
39
votes
3answers
7k views

How do DOS games like DOOM benefit from a PCI graphics card?

The original DOOM and its derivatives (DOOM II, Heretic, Hexen) were early 90s 3D games released at a time when DOS PCs usually had ISA bus Super VGA graphics cards. In the following few years, PCs ...
39
votes
5answers
6k views

Why do programmable sound generators like SID include a noise generator?

In layman's terms, please explain the reason that all the popular PSG's used in 1980s computers and game consoles provided an additional channel to generate programmable "noise". How was this "noise" ...
39
votes
1answer
6k views

Fixing obscure 8080 emulator bug?

I'm using cpudiag.bin from http://www.emulator101.com/files/cpudiag.bin to test my emulator. I've already implemented the CP/M CALL function at 0x05, offset the program at 0x100 and fixed the offset ...
39
votes
5answers
10k views

How did Atari lose money on home computers?

The answer recently posted to Did Atari make more money from arcade games or consoles? quotes a New York Times article from 1982 https://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/19/business/the-game-turns-serious-at-...
39
votes
3answers
7k views

Why does nobody attempt to build Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine?

The Difference Engine was built in the 90s. Why has nobody succeeded in building the Analytical Engine? Charles Babbage designed the Analytical Engine as a general-purpose computer to succeed his ...
39
votes
1answer
3k views

How does the 68060 branch predictor work?

The 68060 had a branch predictor that improved the cycle count of branches that tended to go one way or the other. Apparently it did not handle branches that alternated or had some kind of pattern to ...
39
votes
1answer
7k views

What warning was given on attempting to post to USENET, circa 1990?

I recall a confirmation/warning message that read something like "this will post to thousands of sites... are you sure?" What was a typical such message in the days of pay-per-minute dialup access?
39
votes
4answers
8k views

When did computers stop checking memory on boot?

I remember my old 8088 used to do this (640K OK) but can't remember seeing anything like this since. Does this still happen and it's just not visible? If not, when did it stop, and why? (Imagining ...
38
votes
5answers
9k views

Apocryphal (?) tale of hard drive platter propelled through a wall?

In the mid-1990s while a student at a US university during a computer science lecture, my professor (not a TA or grad student) told us a story of "witnessing" a large, then old-fashioned metal hard ...
38
votes
6answers
9k views

How should we interpret Dave Cutler's criticism of Unix?

Dave Cutler is well known for his contributions to operating systems, having led the effort on VAX VMS at DEC and Windows NT at Microsoft. According to his Wikipedia page, he is also known for ...
38
votes
6answers
10k views

Why did early arcade games use vertical displays?

Surprisingly many early arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Galaxian and Galaga, mounted their displays vertically, in portrait rather than landscape orientation. (From the perspective of the electronics, ...
38
votes
5answers
6k views

Is it possible to make a ROM converter?

Based on my understanding, an emulator is necessary because the machine with the emulator on it (say Windows), doesn't execute the same machine code as the target platform (6502, for example). So what ...
38
votes
8answers
13k views

Why did computer video outputs go from digital to analog, then back to digital?

While early microcomputers used analog video outputs (often to use a television as a display), higher end machines such as the BBC Micro or Commodore 128 supported a digital RGB (or RGBI) video output....
38
votes
7answers
29k views

Latest web browser compatible with Windows 95 / 98

Do you know which is the latest web browser compatible with Windows 95 / 98? At the moment I have an Opera 10 working fine; it is very lightweight but very outdated. I assume that software that works ...
38
votes
2answers
4k views

Was AGP only ever used for graphics cards?

Reading on the AGP spec, the little bits I've found on sites like https://old.pinouts.ru/Slots/agp_pinout.shtml, say: The Accelerated Graphics Port (also called Advanced Graphics Port) is a high-...
38
votes
4answers
23k views

Loading ZX Spectrum tape audio in a post-cassette world

My ZX Spectrum 48k seems very resistant to working with audio input. I no longer have any cassette players, so am relying on audio files from digital players. I have been able to save and verify a ...
38
votes
1answer
7k views

What was “the shrinkwrap issue?”

I first read "Alice in UNIX Land" (by Lincoln Spector, Texas Computer Currents, Sept. 1989), probably around the time when it was written — and at that time didn't understand very many of ...
38
votes
1answer
3k views

Z80 CPU address lines not stable

I just got a Z84C0020PEC and wired it up to test it, using this circuit: Except that I've added LEDs to A0 through A9. It appears that A0 through A6 operate correctly, but A7 though A9 (I've not ...
37
votes
13answers
14k views

Why are punch card readers no longer in use?

When you think about it, punch cards are the safest way to backup data for long term storage. They are not influenced by magnetic fields and their data (the holes) don't fade over time. They are also ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

What did AOL use for pre-web GUI client?

AOL was a big early Internet service provider, and of course by the late nineties, the most popular Internet protocol was the web; most users spent most of their Internet time in a web browser. But if ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

How did Woz write the Apple 1 BASIC before building the computer?

According to his 1984 interview with Byte magazine, Steve Wozniak created the BASIC for the Apple 1 computer before he actually built the computer: I sat down and wrote the BASIC first, and that took ...
37
votes
5answers
11k views

Why did early game consoles need the TV to be tuned to channel 3 or 4?

It just dawned on me that, when I was young, game consoles like the NES and SNES, and possibly other devices like VCR's, required the TV to be tuned to channel 4. I asked around, and some remembered ...
37
votes
9answers
8k views

When and why did high-level language compilers start targeting assembly language rather than machine code?

From what I've read, the first FORTRAN compiler built a machine-code program entirely in memory; it was, in fact, designed to read the entire source code of the program, and then sequentially load ...
37
votes
11answers
4k views

What prevents faster versions of old architectures from being created?

Showing my ignorance about hardware here - I noticed there is still a community developing Amiga accelerators cards. Giving substantial boost from the original memory for example. However the ...
37
votes
3answers
8k views

Where did the free parameters of IEEE 754 come from?

It's clear where many of the design decisions of IEEE 754 floating point come from. For example, the binary format maximizes efficiency on binary hardware. And 32 and 64 bits for single and double ...
37
votes
3answers
4k views

Why did the VIC-II and SID use 6 µm technology in the era of 3 µm and 1.5 µm?

In short, 3 µm looks like it was the "standard" process size at the time, and it was available to Commodore before the chips were designed. Therefore it looks like using the larger 5 to 7 µm process ...
37
votes
4answers
6k views

What's with the Atari 2600 colors on SECAM?

On this picture below you can see that the Atari 2600 graphics are rather colourful, and some games like Pitfall! I think use the many shades of each colour and have rather good graphics for the 2600. ...
37
votes
2answers
11k views

Can a USR command damage a ZX Spectrum?

I recently came across this magazine snippet; specifically this section: Aprovechamos para avisar a los usuarios del Inves, que nos ha Ilegado el rumor de que haciendo: BORDER 5 RANDOMIZE USR 4665 ...
37
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
36
votes
13answers
7k views

Why were programs entered on punch cards instead of paper tapes?

Dale Fisk's Programming With Punched Cards is a fascinating account of programming in the days of punch cards. The fundamental dynamic was that early computers did not yet support timesharing. The ...
36
votes
7answers
9k views

How did Apple fail to tap the business and scientific markets?

Currently reading an excellent book called Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer, which is just what it says on the tin; highly recommended to anyone who wants to ...
36
votes
4answers
8k 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,...
36
votes
4answers
4k views

How did “Ballblazer” pull off fast, smooth, first-person, solid-model 3D on Atari 8-bits?

I remember the first time I saw Ballblazer, the 1984 game, running on a friend's Atari 800. The split-screen 3d graphics and fast action blew my socks off. Looking back, I get the impression there ...
36
votes
1answer
7k 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, ...
36
votes
3answers
2k views

Advantages of a Hitachi HD6309 versus a plain Motorola MC6809

Hitachi was a second source for the Motorola 6809 Micro Processor. The 6309 had many secret features. What advantages does the HD6309 have over the MC6809?

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