New answers tagged

4

The VT52 doesn't exactly qualify as a full computer, but it does have a processor running software out of a ROM. The RAM holding the displayed text is 2048 7-bit bytes. The character generator ROM is also 7 bits wide.


12

The PDP-10 had 'byte instructions' that could process a sequence of bytes of size 1 to 36 bits. The byte pointer was a word containing an 18-bit word address (and the usual index/indirect indications) plus position and size of the byte within the word. It was common to use 7-bit byte sequences for ASCII text, which gave 5 characters per word and one (...


3

The Norsk Data ND-505 had a 28-bit address bus.


5

Sinclair's Basic used the slicing syntax for string manipulation. It even uses it as lvalue. It is imho very clever as it allows some operations without generating lot of garbage as the Microsoft way does. For example: replacing 2 character in the middle of a string Sinclair syntax: LET A$="123456789" LET A$(4 TO 5)="ab" PRINT A$ ...


0

Follow up: following the leads above, and having burrowed into the rabbit hole much deeper than intended, I think it's safe to say the ultimate answer is Integer BASIC. Woz's dialect is (of course) well documented and directly states it was ported from HP. It dates to early 1976, when he started visiting the Homebrew meetings to demonstrate it. I suppose one ...


3

How about the LSI-11/2 (PDP-11/03) that was released in 1975? These machines were in small cabinets you could put beside your desk (not the 6' tall H960 rack). And they were used in process control, science and other fields. It was also available OEM for inclusion into other equipment.


2

As mentioned, the PDP-11/03 was the first microprocessor-based model in the PDP-11 range. In 1977, Heinz Lycklama wrote a paper describing LSI-UNIX (LSX for short) 'UNIX on a Microprocessor': https://www.heinzlycklama.com/docs/bstj57-6-2087.pdf The LSX binaries were found and after a bit of surgery was able to be run: https://unixhistory.livejournal.com/...


17

Full disclosure: I worked on the x87 FPU of a 486-class CPU at a math-coprocessor company in the early 1990s and thereafter worked at AMD, where I was on the 3DNow! design team and the design team for the FPU of the AMD Athlon processor (also known as K7). The x87 FPU never acquired a flush-to-zero mode. In fact, denormal support was one of the major ...


8

While it's hard to come by numbers, there are several non clone candidates that sold quite well: Sirius 1/Victor 9000 1981-1984- Outsold the IBM-PC in Europe by far not at least due better hardware and a headstart of almost a year. It got screwed by company politics in the US ignoring the European success. Sanyo MBC-550 1982-1986 Siemens PC-D 1982-1986 NEC ...


5

Stephens Answer points out most details, I belive it's worth to mention that the 80186 is not incompatible with the IBM-PC's structure/hardware per se. The CPU core works for all details like a 286 in real mode, with the same additional instructions and exceptions, as there are: Instructions: Array Check (BOUND) Integer Multiplication Immediate 8/16 (IMUL) ...


1

If video was 1st, then printing was a close behind 2nd. Applications needed their own printer drivers to format the application's data for printout, in a language that the printer could understand. There were several families of printers, each family's language somewhat compatible within that family (often with caveats and incompatibilities). Yet many ...


30

The main issue with the 80186 isn’t with the CPU core itself, but with its integrated peripherals: they aren’t compatible with those used in the IBM PC, and they aren’t integrated in the same way either. The IBM PC uses an 8237 DMA controller at offset 0x00 in the I/O address space, an 8259 PIC at offset 0x20, and an 8253 PIT at offset 0x40. The 80186’s ...


13

But was there anything other than video that was a source of hardware compatibility issues in the first wave? Or put another way: after video, what was the second most common source of compatibility issues for the semi-compatible DOS machines of the first wave? On the software side I'd say sound may lead a tiny bit before any other hardware device - then ...


10

Aspects I recall, perhaps influenced by the area I was working in at the time: Video display (as you mention) Serial ports Timer interrupt I only had to work with "near-compatible" machines a few times before everything went to "100% compatible" for most hardware interfaces.


1

This answer is still a work in progress... A Unix emulator named "Apple //e Emulator" by Randy Frank (aka "apple2e" or just "ap2e" in filenames) goes right back to 1990. It used ProDOS order for both ProDOS and DOS 3.3 disk images! DOS 3.3: Note: the UNIX files contain all the data on a DOS 3.3 5.25 disk. However, the files ...


7

Microsoft Word did I distinctly remember looking into the binary .doc format used by Microsoft Word 5.0 for DOS, because documents saved when the year was after 1999 couldn't be opened again. It turned out that the internal meta-data included the date using two ASCII digits for the year and 2000 was blindly stored as 100, thus overwriting one byte of an ...


6

Many fixed record text formats (with or without COBOL copybook definitions) used two digit years, and some do still in this year. So it does not only affect storage format (like in databases) but also interchange formats. Those formats deliberately did not use binary representations but did try to be compact. This happened way into the 90ies, where everybody ...


8

I worked with IBM minicomputers (S/36, S/38, and AS/400) in the 1980s and 1990s. The very ugly programming language RPG was popular. It looked very different from Cobol but had similar abilities. It supported only two data types: fixed length alphanumeric and fixed precision decimal numeric. The numeric variables could be zoned which meant one digit per ...


6

You may not remember the enormous market share that IBM occupied in the business computing space in the 20th century. I don't mean just the mainframe market where S/360, S/370, S/390 & their successors play, but also the much larger (in terms of units) midrange/small business market occupied by the S/3, S/32, S/34, S/36, S/38, AS/400, and their ...


7

Additional examples: In banking, many computations have historically used binary-coded decimal (BCD) as a compromise between space, speed, and consistent rounding rules. Floating point was uncommon, slow, and difficult to round off consistently. So even things like interest rates might be stored in fixed-point BCD. Something like an interest rate might ...


7

Back in olden times (1960s and earlier), when data came on Hollerith cards (80 columns, 12 rows), using 2 extra columns (of the 80 available) to store the fixed string "19" as part of a date seemed useless. Having more than 80 columns of data meant that one had to use multiple cards, and lost several columns to the overhead needed to say "I'm ...


6

Even systems that stored the year as a byte often just printed "19" in front of the value. So the year 2000 (stored as 100) would be printed as 19100 or 1910 or 1900 depending on exactly how the number was converted from a byte to printable characters. Of course a lot of systems didn't even both printing the 19, they just printed 100/01/01 or 00/01/...


7

The mainframes have been covered. Let's look at what led up to the PC which of course is where a lot of business software evolved. Many PC programmers had previously been programmers for 8-bit systems, and had grown up on the "every cycle counts" mentality. Many programs for MS-DOS had ports for older 8-bit systems, too, so would have often ...


8

Another point that hasn't yet been mentioned is that many programs would store data in whatever format it was keyed in. If data was stored as six digits YYMMDD, that's what data-entry clerks would be expected to type. For a program to store data as YYYYMMDD, it would be necessary to either have clerks enter an extra two digits per record, or have software ...


6

The NORAD Two Line Element format remains in wide use for cataloging satellite orbits. Originally intended for punched cards, it uses a two character year. Years <57 are defined to be in the 21st century. It may be supplanted soon, though. The immediate problem is not years, but the number of trackable objects in orbit.


23

To add to Raffzahn's answer, here's an example from a 1958 book on data processing: … The names of authors are coded in columns 11-14. The first four consonants of the name form the code. The last two digits of the year of the reference are punched directly into columns 15-16. The journal, or other source for the reference, is coded in columns 17-20. … (...


51

I programmed in Cobol for nearly 20 years at the start of my career and it was quite common to see two digit years used. Initially this was due to storage concerns - not necessarily only memory, but disk storage also. Cobol has no intrinsic date field. It was very common to store dates in Cobol like: 01 EMP-HIRE-DATE. 03 EMP-HIRE-DATE-YY PIC 99. ...


12

There are actually still RTC chips on the market which store the year only as a pair of BCD digits, and do not have a century field. These are usually packed into one byte when read, in common with the fields for day-of-month, month-of-year, hour, minute, and second. The same format is used for the alarm settings. Old software using these chips would ...


89

Short Answer: BCD rules over a single byte integer. The claim that programs stored dates as two ASCII or similar characters because computers were limited in resources seems wrong to me The point wasn't about using ASCII or 'similar', using only two decimal digits. That can be two characters (not necessary ASCII) or two BCD digits in a single byte. ...


1

Before IBM popularized personal computers which led to the dominance of Microsoft, computers were huge. They were owned by departments, institutions, universities. Nobody owned a computer. In order to program or do other work on a computer, you had to be given permission to use it. So it was a machine that you shared with many other people. You became a user ...


3

As someone who was involved in designing minicomputers in the 70's I'd like to add that from the point of view of an engineer developing the computer they might be seen as "mere" users. Also seen in user mode vs system/kernel mode. To system code developers application programmers can be seen as "mere" users. I also agree that until the ...


8

The word "user" was applied to operators of word processing and office equipment well before computers were commonplace. Google Books reveals citations back to the 1890s for "typewriter user." Manufacturers appeared to use this terminology as well, such as in this Remington ad from 1920: "Today, as always, the typewriter user who ...


1

Because 'user' wasn't in any way synonymous with 'customer', if it's in an organization then the organization itself might be the 'customer', but all the people who use it (in that org and everyone else who ever accesses/makes that copy) are 'users'; also, because licenses expire and PC software copying was rife back in the 1980s/1990s, so it was quite ...


-1

Greek mythology. Echo, by trying to protect Zeus, she endured Hera's wrath. Hera made her only able to speak the last words spoken to her. Thus an echo. So, echo text to screen, echo string to file. When you shout into a cave, you get an echo, it's a metaphor for saying that the object was repeated, or rebroadcasted.


4

To further Pete Kirkham's answer; IBM's TSO (Time Sharing Option) was one of the more popular software options that allowed customers of IBM to rent out time on their computers (a.k.a. mainframes of the time) to users that didn't need/want/afford a computer of their own. This solidified the concepts of "Users" (people that asked the computer to do work for ...


3

Following from Big Mike's recollection, which matches mine own, I had a look into CTSS which was about the first system with more than one user to see if I could find a source of the terminology earlier than 1961. First movers often set terminology for a technical domain. John Backus uses the term when discussing the 'Effect of Automatic Coding on Machine ...


3

The person paying for the software is very often not the same person using the software. I currently make support bots, the companies buying our product are our customers, the people using it are our users. A university with an Office 365 subscription is a customer, all the staff and students are users. For Gmail, the advertisers are the customers, the ...


2

By my recollection, computers became multi-user, meaning that multiple people could operate the same tool simultaneously. Each user had "user space", meaning values assigned to do their work, and shared or system space, meaning it held values assigned to operate the system or exchange information between users. This was different from batch-oriented systems ...


5

There are: People who sell computers: vendors People who buy computers: customers of the vendors (and for pre-personal computers, this was generally an ongoing relationship) People who program the computers that were bought: programmers People who operate the machinery that is the computer while it runs the programs that the programmers have written: ...


3

One might infer this from what the other answers said, but I don't see it explicitly stated. A person who uses a computer is a user. This "-r" suffix to refer to the person performing an action is just a feature of the English language. There isn't really a better verb to summarise everything you do on a computer than "use", thus "user". With a (modern) ...


10

Customers buy things. Users just use them. The term 'user' arose in the days of the mainframe computer where many users connect to a single computer, often using the same shared terminals during the day. The individuals need tracking so 'users' and 'user accounts' were eventually born. The notion of others in the workplace being called 'customers' was a ...


81

'User' and 'customer' aren't the same. The user is the person (always a person) who uses a computer system to do something. The customer is the person or organization who pays for the hardware and software used by the user. The customer can be identical to the user (private or freelance personal computer user). The customer can be the user's boss (...


10

The term "computer user" is analogous to "automobile driver". (It is an even better fit, because "driver" specifically excludes passengers.) Many people, in many cases most, who use computer hardware or software are not the purchasers, customers, operators, programmers, administrators, or gamers. I can think of no better term for "user" which encompasses ...


20

TL;DR: User simply coins what is it about, the generic usage of something - differentiating it from any other role. And let's be honest, a computer is such a generic device, that it's use can be manyfold - from typist to gamer and accountant to engineer. So any more specific name would miss out other practices. In Detail: Notably, the term does make ...


6

It is one of the terms used originally to distinguish between the various roles involved in the creation and use of hardware and software. As a term it probably made much more sense in the days of room-sized mainframes where everyone had a lab coat on.


3

I'll have to look up the exact date but it was definitely pre-CGI. Very early on in the development of the web I wrote my own web server in perl that had not root directory. It would take the requested path and do a table lookup to find which subroutine should serve that "tree". I took it very much to heart that the path requested by a browser could be ...


3

From Writing Apache Modules with Perl and C (Doug MacEachern; Lincoln Stein, 1998, O'Reilly Media, Inc., 1999): If you wanted to extend the functionality of the [CERN httpd] web server -- for example, to hook it up to a bibliographic database of scientific papers -- you had to modify the server's source code and recompile. ... The earliest web API that we ...


1

In the early days a webserver did not know or care which hostname it served, it just served files (and optionally allowed for running external CGI scripts as the webserver itself couldn't). So, a single web root on disk for all hostnames recognized by the underlying host. Also the http://xxx/~user syntax allowed for users to host their own pages in their ...


15

Great stuff on the the MS/PC-DOS and CP/M history in the other answers. I'd add that batch files come from the heritage (in early DOS, CP/M, and on mainframes and other systems) of script files, intended to save the "console operator" typing and allow them to leave the "console" while the potentially time-consuming steps were being sequentially executed. ...


41

ECHO ON was chosen as the default setting when interpreting batch files to preserve backwards compatibility. In PC-DOS 1.0, COMMAND.COM displayed each command as it interpreted it, and this couldn’t be disabled. ECHO was added in PC/MS-DOS 2.0, with a dual purpose (displaying messages, and controlling the display of batch file commands); its default is ON so ...


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