46

People nowadays think of BASIC as something lesser and generally tied to puny microcomputers, but BASIC was the language of choice for many scientific, engineering and business computers in the 1970s. It had a strong foothold with mini computers, years before the microprocessors made its debut on the desktop. Think HP (Instrument) BASIC for all their ...


38

The floating-point routines for Microsoft BASIC were written by Monte Davidoff in 1975, originally for the Altair, which used an Intel 8080 CPU. The source code had been lost for years, until Bill Gates’ former tutor discovered a copy in 2000 that had fallen behind his file cabinet two decades before. Davidoff needed to invent his own floating-point format, ...


26

One example of popular 8-bit computers without BASIC in ROM is the first three Atari 8-bit computers, the 400, 800, and 1200XL, which didn’t have BASIC built-in but on a separate cartridge. Their predecessor, the Atari Video Computer System, also had a BASIC Programming cartridge, written by Warren Robinett, but it wasn’t supplied with the system (it was ...


23

There are three primary benchmarks used during this period. They are not strictly "CPU" tests, but were often used for that purpose. The almost unknown Rugg/Feldman suite from 1977. This was a series of seven, and later eight, small BASIC benchmarks. They were clever in that each test was a modification of the previous so you only had to type in ...


21

Short Answer: Motorola used it for their 6800 and MOS (6500) inherited it from Motorola. After all, the 6500 team members came out of the 6800 project so they were already used to it. Long Answer: If the 0x prefix clearly predates the 8-bit revolution, It doesn't, really. Motorola used the $ prefix already with the 6800 of 1974. Unix had only recently (...


21

Using a 32 bit signed mantissa and 8 bit unsigned exponent has one major advantage: You can re-use 32 bit integer math functions for operating on the mantissa. That re-use saves memory. It may even be possible to optimize the 8 bit exponent maths if character maths are supported, as characters are typically stored as 8 bit unsigned ASCII. The original ...


20

(Please see as well other fine answers for more computers fitting the list) I guess we can put them in four categories (in descending order of application): Machines with Different Language in ROM The early models of the Soviet BK-0010 series had FOCAL in ROM. BASIC was available as an add-on module. Later models starting from BK-0010.01 already had BASIC in ...


17

Does anyone know of any bitmap-based 8080/8085 (or, failing that, Z80) computers? The Kyotronics 85, TRS-80 Model 100, NEC PC8201 and Olivetti M-10 were 8085 based notebook-style computers all based on the KR-85 platform, which had a 640 x 64 pixel graphic LCD screen. It was introduced in 1983. Here's an example of bitmap graphics on the PC-8201, a 3D maze ...


17

The ABC 80 computer used a 5×9 character matrix, each interspersed with one row and one column giving 6×10 pixels per character. The followup ABC 800 models followed teletext specifications and thus also had 10 pixels per text row.


16

This was more of a marketing question than a technical one. The historical fact is that most vendors of 8-bit personal computers chose to include BASIC. The simple answer as to why they made this choice is pretty obvious - It was the standard. So, slightly restating the question posed, one could ask "Why was BASIC the standard?" It was a standard in the ...


16

If we're not talking about BASIC as a programming language, but the operational commands that surround it, then the answer is that they surely reimplemented the command structure of existing timesharing systems that offered BASIC, in particular the 1964 Dartmouth Time Sharing System (the progenitor of BASIC). There are nits to pick, however. The "command ...


16

It's not a power of 2, not a nice round number But it is :-) 1 byte exponent (with an assumed 1 bit always equal to one), 4 bytes mantissa, at least on the ZX Spectrum – see the ZX Spectrum manual. And since the mantissa and exponent are processed individually, the mantissa is a nice power of 2. Granted, this is less of an advantage without full 32 bit ...


16

Teletext — as seen in the BBC Micro's MODE 7 — used more than 8 lines for its font: (The line spacing in the image is incorrect, but to the best of my knowledge the pixel imagery is correct)


15

The French company Micronique had a few models that came with Forth instead of BASIC, like the Hector HRX and Hector MX. https://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=142&st=1


15

Why is the question restricted to 8-bit computers? How would the bus or register width factor in that decision? The Elektronika BK series used 256 scan lines and a 10-line font, subdivided into 24 text lines, 1 status line, and a divider/tabstop indicator area between them.


11

A one octet word (eight bits, also known as a byte) can take a value 0-255 as you've found. When you use a byte as an address, you can identify 256 different locations. A two-octet word (sixteen bits) can take a value 0-65535. When you use that value as an address, like on a Z80 or 6502 processor, you can identify 65536 different locations.


10

To start with, there was a whole lot of 8080 based home computers, many of them offering bitmap graphics, but more important, already the very first general available colour video board, the Dazzler offered bitmap graphics. The Dazzler was most definite meant for use with an 8080, as it was available at a time before the Z80 could be bought. For the ...


10

The "Technical Descriptions" link for the Nick Chip on this Enterprise 64/128 Technical Information page is a .pdf file. Page 13 of this file seems to say that the 256-color palette uses 3 bits for red, 3 for green, and 2 for blue.


9

You didn't mention the MPF-II's release: That was, apparently, 1982. There were earlier Japanese Microcomputers than that, notably the NEC PC-8000 series (released in 1979) that used a Katakana/Kanji character set (that had to be removed/changed when preparing a release for the US market in 1981) Even the Hitachi Basic Master (released 1978 and commonly ...


9

I started programming microcomputers in 1979 as an 11-year-old in Melbourne, Australia. This is how it is in my memory, which I am sure is only a rough approximation of reality. I never saw anything like an Altair or Apple I in the very early days. I did see a couple of kit computers with hex keypads. I never saw a ZX 80 but there were a small number of ZX ...


8

One thing to note – the 8088 registers are made from dynamic memory cells – they have to be refreshed. This was unexpected (at least to me), Same to me. And I guess to anyone else as well. Ken Shirriff's analysis of the 8086 registers clearly shows that they are not dynamic, but static, using the same inverter loop as the 8080 already did (and essentially ...


7

There is no way to establish a classification of 'efficiency' (whatever 'viability' is supposed to be) with the information given. The characterisations given, like Number of Registers, Number of flags Memory addressing range Number of instructions etc. bear no hint about performance at all. More or less registers, flags or instructions are not per se ...


7

The definition of an OS is quite fuzzy, though it generally includes resource allocation and handling, a way to indicate actions to be performed ('commands', not necessarily interactive), and a way to run user programs. Your BASIC-only microprocessor systems seem to fulfil that definition, though the "OS" aspects were pretty limited. We can at ...


7

Some more Soviet home computers that lacked BASIC in their ROMs: Vector-06C Apogey BK-01 (wiki is only available in Russian and it is not very clear about whether there were built-in BASIC, but other sources say there weren't) Radio-86RK Specialist Orion-128 Microsha (only Russian, clear statement that the BASIC was loadable from the tape)


7

I had a Colecovision Adam computer back in the day. A very odd feature of that system was that the power supply was actually in the printer. It came with a word processor in its ROM rather than a programming language. I remember using all my lawn mowing money to buy SmartBASIC and SmartLOGO on cassette tape along with a 300-baud modem for it.


7

32-bit floating point has 23 bits of mantissa (8 used by exponent and 1 used by sign). This gives only 6 significant decimal digits of precision, possibly up to 9 but not with guaranteed precision. It is enough precision to claim you support floating point maths, but it isn't very much precision for some scientific needs. I suspect they wanted to provide ...


7

For assessing floating-point performance, there was the Savage benchmark. It was proposed by Bill Savage of Microfloat in Houston, Texas, and published in the Ray Duncan column "16-bit Software Toolbox" in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, Number 83, September 1983, p. 120. A scan of the entire Dr. Dobb's volume can be retrieved here; the relevant article starts ...


6

I'm not sure that the IBM5100 could really be considered a "home computer", and I believe that it was not an 8-bit computer (it was, as I recall, based on a cut-down version of the 360), but it might pass today's "sniff test" for home computers, and came in two versions: The 5100B did in fact have BASIC in ROM (which IBM called ROS), but ...


6

The Nascom 1 didn't have any high level languages. Its successor the Nascom 2 came with BASIC however. The Nascom 1 and 2 were single-board computer kits issued in the United Kingdom in 1977 and 1979, respectively, based on the Zilog Z80 and including a keyboard and video interface, a serial port that could be used to store data on a tape cassette using the ...


6

I used an IBM 360 a lot for numerical work around 1970, and found single-precision (32-bit) floating point almost, but not quite, adequate for a surprisingly wide range of problems; whereas "double precision" (64-bit) was overkill and slow. 40-bit floating point (32 bit mantissa) is probably an excellent compromise. But of course it depends on ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible