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Share Your Experience: Take the 2024 Developer Survey
111 votes
Accepted

Why were computer customers called "Users"?

'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 ...
Michael Graf's user avatar
  • 10.1k
107 votes
Accepted

On DOS computers, what would the PARK command do?

Hard drives have read/write heads which fly above the spinning disks when the drive is powered. When power is removed, the heads no longer fly... For a long time now, the arms which hold the heads ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
105 votes
Accepted

Does "Disk Operating System" imply that there was a "non-disk" Operating System?

The term "Disk Operating System", or commonly "DOS", was used in the early days of personal computing to distinguish operating systems that also contained software for supporting disk devices, since ...
Brian H's user avatar
  • 60.8k
99 votes
Accepted

Why is EEPROM called ROM if it can be written to?

Look at the development: ROM = read-only memory = can only be read when on the board, programmed in the chip factory. PROM = programmable read-only memory = can be programmed with a special programmer,...
dirkt's user avatar
  • 27.8k
80 votes

Does "Disk Operating System" imply that there was a "non-disk" Operating System?

It doesn't imply that it's the disk operating system so much as it implies that it's the disk-operating system. You could boot an Apple II from ROM, enter and run BASIC programs, load programs from ...
hobbs's user avatar
  • 5,093
77 votes
Accepted

Why are paddles called paddles?

They're called paddles because they let you play (electronic) table tennis. :) This article from CREATIVE COMPUTING VIDEO & ARCADE GAMES VOL. 1, NO. 1, 1983 explains. The reason this control is ...
knol's user avatar
  • 12.1k
70 votes

When was the term ‘directory’ replaced by ‘folder’?

Directory is a filesystem concept. Folder is a user-level concept. From its beginning in the 1980s, the Macintosh GUI (and possibly other GUIs before it) only talked about "folders" and ...
Nimloth's user avatar
  • 2,068
57 votes
Accepted

What was the first operating system called DOS?

DOS/360 (As distinct from TOS/360, the tape OS) Announced at the end of 1964 per Wikipedia.
dave's user avatar
  • 35.7k
48 votes

What does the "x" in "x86" represent?

The term x86 is shorthand for 80x86, which was used to refer to any member of the family 8086 (and also, incidently, 8088), 80186, 80286, etc. Things have since gotten a bit muddled by the fact that ...
supercat's user avatar
  • 36.5k
47 votes
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What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

I would think the articles you've read were most likely about the Virtual 8086 Mode introduced with the 386. Here a host OS (running at privilege 0) would create a standard protected process, but mark ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 224k
47 votes

What is a Dumb Terminal?

Like any non-hard term, the label 'dumb' terminal is not only open to interpretation, but also used in different ways over time. Even more so for making others look bad (dumb) or one's own products ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 224k
46 votes

Does "Disk Operating System" imply that there was a "non-disk" Operating System?

The term DOS pre-dates the personal computer by a looong way: the term DOS/360 was first coined by IBM in 1964 as a new operating system for their System/360 mainframe computers, to replace TOS (tape ...
JavaLatte's user avatar
  • 561
46 votes
Accepted

Why do we use caret (^) as the symbol for ctrl/control?

We use caret because the 1968 version of ASCII replaced the perfectly fine up-arrow (previously used for indicating control characters) with a lousy caret, at the same code value. I think the up-...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.7k
46 votes

Why is the processor instruction called "move", not "copy"?

Besides the matter of semantics and personal taste, there’s a much more practical reason: some instructions sets claim to be copyrighted, as the Wikipedia Z80 article states: Because Intel claimed ...
Biff Iam's user avatar
  • 2,209
46 votes
Accepted

Correct pronunciation of `vi` (Unix editor)?

vi is pronounced as the two separate letters, /ˌviːˈaɪ/ (in English); listen to the same Brian Kernighan (also re-confirming the ed pronunciation). Vim’s pronunciation is explicitly documented: Vim ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
44 votes
Accepted

Was the term "master" in source code management systems first used with the sense of master/replica or master/slave?

(This is essentially based on research done by Bastien Nocera. Simon Kissane’s answer includes more thorough research which revealed other uses earlier on.) As far as I’m aware, the first SCM to use ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
43 votes
Accepted

What was the first operating system to be called an "operating system"?

As is often the case, a candidate for the first system to be described by its authors as an “operating system” is the Atlas supervisor, described in the eponymous paper published in December 1961, ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
42 votes

When was the term ‘directory’ replaced by ‘folder’?

TL;DR: No, 'Directories' were never replaced by 'Folders'. They are the same. The names just represent different views: Directory is the data structure holding information about files (and other ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 224k
41 votes
Accepted

Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

I bear disappointing news: the conventional wisdom seems to be that the term arose organically among Windows users of the mid-to-late 1990s. It’s probably hopeless to establish a definite coinage of ...
user3840170's user avatar
  • 23.1k
40 votes
Accepted

Why is the processor instruction called "move", not "copy"?

Because "move" is the typical necessary function It isn't always this way, of course, but especially with earlier CPUs, there were limited destinations for data from a particular operation - e.g., ...
manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact's user avatar
40 votes
Accepted

Distinction between scientific and business computing

In practice, "scientific computing" meant floating-point number-crunching like physics simulations, and "business" computing meant I/O-oriented record processing, such as doing the ...
RETRAC's user avatar
  • 13.7k
40 votes

What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

"Virtual machine" has a long and varied history, not always meaning exactly what it means today. Early designers of timesharing systems viewed what they were providing to their users was a ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.7k
39 votes

What does the "x" in "x86" represent?

x is meant as wildcard, so this represents all CPUs able to run 8086 compatible code.
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 224k
38 votes

Why are assemblers called assemblers?

The first use seems to be in "Wilkes, M. V., D. J. Wheeler, and S. Gill, The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer. Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley, 1951". This book can ...
RETRAC's user avatar
  • 13.7k
35 votes
Accepted

What exactly is a cycle-accurate emulator?

For an emulator to be "cycle accurate" means the interactions between the components are timed accurately enough so that the emulation behaves the same way as the original machine for any given input. ...
George Phillips's user avatar
35 votes

Why is slash so commonly used in old systems' abbreviations?

Well, at least on some of those, it's a quite natural divider, such as you would see in: 7 days/week (per). 13 sectors/track (per). Dear Sir/Madam (or). 3/7 (of/over). For your cited examples, they ...
paxdiablo's user avatar
  • 4,832
34 votes
Accepted

What was the first piece of software to be called an engine?

While I don't know the first software to be referred to as an engine, it seemed useful to check Google's Ngram Viewer: As can be seen, database engine slowly began being to be used around 1979, while ...
C.Wyatt's user avatar
  • 456
34 votes
Accepted

What's the difference between "opcode" and "instruction" in this Zilog ad?

The definition of "instruction" and "OP code" (aka operation code) is a bit fuzzy because it depends on how humans view the CPU. So the designers and their marketing department mostly get to pick the ...
pndc's user avatar
  • 11.4k
34 votes

What is a dropfile?

TL;DR; Dropfiles are somewhat related to virtualization as they allow to remove a process complete from execution and restart it later. Agent_L describes it quite head on as 'per-process hibernation'. ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 224k

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