Questions tagged [history]

History of computers, digital electronics, hardware manufacturers and software developers.

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1answer
58 views

When did cross-platform C start assuming function prototypes?

The most important difference between the original 'K&R' C, and ANSI/ISO C89/90, was function prototypes. These started being supported by some compilers in the mid-eighties, were formally ...
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2answers
465 views

What aspect of portable floating point did Java back down on?

Java was released under the slogan 'write once, run anywhere'; while its adoption was probably more about 'now we have a language that provides garbage collection in a familiar workflow and with a ...
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6answers
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How can extra (digital) data be hidden on VCR/VHS tapes?

For my new crime-novel I am in need of some more specific info on hiding digital data on analog VCR or VHS cassettes. I have already read a lot online and seen the LCR oddware video on that case (...
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1answer
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Besides the IBM 709 and its descendents, did any other machine have “slightly longer” registers?

This question occurred to me while I was formulating this answer about arithmetic versus logical shifts. The IBM 709, and its descendant the 7090, etc., is a 36-bit mainframe with a classical single-...
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1answer
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Which computers did Donald Knuth “mix” together to get MIX?

The MIX was a computer design that Donald Knuth used to illustrate computer instruction sets in his magnum opus The Art of Computer Programming. MIX's model number is 1009, which was derived by ...
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7answers
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What was the last non-monolithic CPU to come to market?

This answer to the question "What was the rationale behind 36 bit computer architectures?" makes the point that early computers were assembled by hand, rather than having central processing ...
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3answers
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What were the differences between Xenix and Unix?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenix by the beginning of the nineties, SCO was selling 32-bit 386 versions of both Xenix and Unix. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=...
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1answer
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What did Prodigy use for pre-web GUI client?

Prodigy 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. ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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1answer
845 views

When did AOL start offering Internet email?

AOL, one of the most successful early Internet service providers, started life in 1983 as a company called Control Video Corporation selling downloadable games for the Atari 2600; this became Quantum ...
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2answers
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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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1answer
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What HyperCard extensions did Myst use?

The original Macintosh version of Myst was written in HyperCard. According to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20549685 Adding useful features, such as uploading those HTML files to a web server, ...
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What programming languages were most commonly used on the AS/400 in the 90s?

The IBM AS/400, formerly known as System/38, subsequently known as i (sic), is remarkable in being essentially the most future-proof of all the minicomputers, thanks among other things to the use of ...
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1answer
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How was EDSAC program code represented on uniselectors?

(I hope we haven't covered this somewhere...) The 1949 EDSAC could boot, as we say nowadays, from a bank of uniselectors. It's unclear to me how program code was actually represented on the ...
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Which was the first magazine presented in electronic form, on a data medium, to be read on a computer?

In this question a magazine is meant to be a periodical publication containing news, information and other content like software for example. By electronic magazine I mean a magazine presented in ...
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1answer
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What's the heritage of 80286? [closed]

80186 introduced some instructions for HLL features. 80286 introduced some instructions for protected mode, and provided some multitasking ability with external MMU which was never intended for PCs ...
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What was this book about floating-point system design/construction?

A comment on the question Why did 8-bit Basic use 40-bit floating point? says the following (emphasis added): Re, "Nowadays, floating point is usually either 32 or 64 bits." More ...
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1answer
275 views

What size was the Microsoft Internet Explorer team?

According to Joel Spolsky, I will give the Internet Explorer team credit. With IE versions 3.0 and 4.0 they probably created software about ten times faster than the industry norm. This had nothing ...
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4answers
302 views

Cheapest type of Read-Only Memory allowing Random access before Year 1970

Back in the 50s and 60s people had: random access, read-write memories like Magnetic Cores. sequential access, read-write memories like Delay Lines and Magnetic Tapes. And: sequential access, write ...
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1answer
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Was this a typo/mistake, or did a mid-1990s cheap “data bank” for personal use really only hold THREE addresses + phone numbers? [closed]

In approximately 1995, or 1996, at the very latest 1997, I was a kid who was obsessed with cutting-edge technical gadgets. I carefully read every issue of this "Teknikmagasinet" catalogue, ...
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3answers
343 views

What was the most common method of internet access for small offices in 1990s in USA?

In mid-1990s, dial-up access was already common, but its speeds were still low (like 14-28 kbps, 56 kbps only in the late 1990s), and I don't know if there were any popular solutions to share dial-up ...
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3answers
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When did files start to be dated?

When I revisit my files on a 5¼″ floppy using my 1541 drive with a C64 I mainly miss the date on files. I know that a Real Time Clock was not implemented and that the first computer to integrate the ...
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11answers
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What was the earliest system to explicitly support threading based on shared memory?

The notion of multiple processes has been around a long time, at least since the IBM 360. Multiple processes running at the same time, in separate memory spaces with protection from each other. (In ...
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4answers
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When did half-bad RAM chips stop being available?

The ZX Spectrum sold with either 16 or 48K RAM, necessitating an optional 32K memory bank which was achieved in a characteristically (for Sinclair) cleverly frugal way: with half-bad 64kbit DRAM chips,...
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1answer
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Did the Power Macintosh 8500 have accelerated blitting?

Looking at online specifications for the Power Macintosh 8500, I was able to find few details on its graphics capabilities beyond quantity of VRAM and supported color depths, refresh rates, and ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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0answers
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How many people were employed in the UK making Sinclair computers?

According to Wikipedia Sinclair Research had only 140 employees at its peak in the 1980s. I was surprised the number was so small for a company that sold something like five million computers, then I ...
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2answers
825 views

What was the communication format of the Edison stock ticker?

Thomas Edison invented the first practical stock ticker in 1869, which is considered to be an important predecessor to teletypes and computer printers. The Wikipedia page for the stock ticker ...
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6answers
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What did order processing on a teletype look like?

The earliest business data processing systems were based on batch processing of punchcards. Prepare cards off-line, feed a batch of them through the computer. (Why does one so often hear of payroll, ...
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1answer
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Porting of software from the m68k family architecture to the DEC VAX

I am looking for impressions, memoirs, articles, guidelines - everything that is possible about the unusual direction of software migration. I am interested in non-Unix related code, and preferably ...
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1answer
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How did SABRE work interactively without screens?

The SABRE airline reservation system went online in 1964, astonishing the world by being among other things the first large-scale interactive computing system. Once the IBM 3270 video terminals were ...
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1answer
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Where are the sources of the original curses library?

The curses library is a terminal control library for Unix-like systems used in text based user interface applications. It has been used in many games in the past. It was developed by Ken Arnold and ...
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12answers
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Was memory corruption a common problem in large programs written in assembly language?

Memory corruption bugs have always been a common problem in large C programs and projects. It was a problem in 4.3BSD back then, and it's still a problem today. No matter how carefully the program is ...
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4answers
714 views

Are there some non-OOP programming languages that does not allow you to make a variable private? [closed]

In the non-OOP programming languages that I know of, you can't make a variable private (i.e. there is no private keyword), but there are some tricks that you can use to effectively make a variable ...
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13answers
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In what language(s) is the return value set by assigning to the function’s name?

In this Stack Overflow question the original code made the mistake of using the function name as a variable, and assigned the return value to it. A commenter mentioned that he once used a language ...
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2answers
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What was the first microprocessor to overlap loads with ALU ops?

Modern out of order CPUs can do all sorts of things in parallel, having not only multiple functional units, but a lot of logic to check at runtime exactly which instructions really depend on others, ...
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0answers
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What was a DEC PDP-11/85 intended to be, and why might it be able to use DECsystem-10 software?

In this DEC PDP-11 Strategy Memo from Sept 1974, there is this curious question. HOW MUCH OF THE DEC SYSTEM 10 SOFTWARE CAN THE 11/85 USE, OR DOES THE 11/85 HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH? CONFLICTING ...
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1answer
174 views

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers? [closed]

What was the most popular operating system on the PDP-11 computers? And is it known what percentage of PDP-11 computers used this operating system?
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3answers
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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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8answers
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Were there any computers that did not support virtual memory? [duplicate]

Were there any computers that did not support virtual memory? if yes, were these computers able to run multiple processes at the same time? By “virtual memory” I mean when a process would want to ...
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1answer
1k views

Did any CPU ever expose load delays?

There have been CPUs with exposed branch delays, such as early MIPS: What was the first CPU with exposed pipeline? (Later MIPS kept the delay slots from the early MIPS, though by that time, it wasn't ...
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0answers
155 views

What percentage of DVD forum royalties did Sony get?

A slightly arcane question that I think is relevant to a chapter of the history of game consoles whose dynamics I'm trying to understand. In the mid-nineties, several companies were developing optical ...
5
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1answer
332 views

Did the Saturn fail because of game distribution issues?

The Sega Saturn sold only nine million units, well short of the ambition with which Sega launched it, and as it would turn out, well short of what was needed to ultimately keep the company in the ...
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1answer
157 views

How much RAM was sold each year in the 1970s?

I'm trying to get an idea of the quantitative parameters of the computer industry in the era that saw the rise of personal computers. Of course, the industry as a whole was old by then; companies like ...
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2answers
662 views

What process node were 4k and 16k DRAMs first made at?

In the history of computers, much is said of microprocessors, for good reason, but the relatively unsung RAM chips were equally important. Of particular significance were the 4kbit and 16kbit dynamic ...
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3answers
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What was Pong called in Britain?

Pong, the electronic ping-pong game invented by Atari in 1972, was the first really successful video game. In Britain, 'pong' was also slang for a nasty smell, and I remember reading somewhere, a long ...
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1answer
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When did the IBM 650 have a “Table lookup on Equal” instruction?

In 1959, Donald Knuth wrote an assembly program named SuperSoap for the IBM 650. Here is the manual, and here is a listing of the program (in SuperSoap assembly language). Quoting from the abstract: ...
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3answers
401 views

What software used Turbo Vision back in its prime time?

Turbo Vision, Borland’s text-mode widget toolkit, is fairly widely known by those old enough to remember it, and apparently quite influential: it gave rise to a number of ports and reimplementations (...
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3answers
531 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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11answers
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Did any European computers use 10-line fonts?

Most 8-bit computers implemented hardware text mode, and most of those used 8x8 fonts. This was logical for American computers; the title safe area on NTSC is about 200 scan lines; font height 8 gets ...

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