Mark
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What is the oldest computer capable of running a modern version of GNU/Linux?
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44 votes

If you're looking to run a modern-ish version of Linux, the oldest hardware is likely a Intel 80386 from 1986, probably with some memory upgrades -- 640k isn't enough for everybody. Note that support ...

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Are MS-DOS and Windows 9x vulnerable to Meltdown?
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40 votes

The Meltdown attack is about figuring out what's in protected memory (typically, kernel memory) by arranging for it to be speculatively read, and then looking for residual side effects after the ...

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What soviet computer used trinary bits?
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36 votes

These were probably the Setun computers, built in the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1965. It used balanced ternary (with the digits 1, 0, and -1) for computations, and a three-valued logic (I haven't ...

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Why does MP3 audio decoding overwhelm retro CPU's?
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34 votes

What's lacking is mostly raw number-crunching ability. The MP3 format is relatively lightweight, and can be implemented using only fixed-point math (no FPU required), but it still takes a fair amount ...

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What is a use case for the JAM instruction on the MOS Technology 650x family of processors?
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31 votes

It's a bit misleading to call them "undocumented opcodes". "Accidental opcodes" would be more accurate. Instead of using microcode, the 6502 family used a programmable logic array as a lookup table ...

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Install Commodore 64 on VirtualBox
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30 votes

It's not possible. VirtualBox only supports emulating IBM-compatible x86 and x86-64 systems. The Commodore 64 uses a 6510 CPU and a wildly different architecture. In order to run Commodore 64 ...

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How can tilting a N64 cartridge cause such subtle glitches?
29 votes

This is the pinout of a Nintendo 64 cartridge (from here). The Nintendo 64 used a multiplexed address/data bus with a three-stage access protocol: write the high word of the address you want to ...

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Limiting factor on early color palettes
28 votes

What you're missing is that early computers didn't generate their video signals the way that modern computers do. You're probably picturing a C64 working in much the same way that a VGA adapter does: ...

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What are the differences between a PAL and NTSC C64?
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28 votes

Hardware-wise, the Commodore 64, like most early computers, was synchronized to its graphics output: in the case of the C64, the CPU clock was derived from the timing crystal in the video hardware. ...

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Which Linux or BSD distributions do still support i386, i486 or i586 CPUs?
26 votes

Linux still supports the 80486 SX: the SX was simply a DX without the FPU, and the FPU emulation code is still present (Processor type and features->Math emulation). Finding a distro is a bit ...

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How much benefit should be expected on a more advanced compiler for z80/r800 based computers?
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24 votes

Places where LLVM will provide no benefit, and may reduce performance: The Z80 has no CPU cache, accessing memory directly instead. Any optimizations based around increasing cache efficiency (eg. ...

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How can MS-DOS be installed on VirtualBox?
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23 votes

C:\msdos\DISKS\144UPG1.IMG C:\msdos\DISKS\144UPG2.IMG C:\msdos\DISKS\144UPG3.IMG From your listing, I believe these are 1.44 MB images of the installation floppies. In that case, installation is ...

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How can I power a C64?
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22 votes

The Commodore 64 requires a power supply that provides both 9V AC and 5V DC. If you're interested in building your own, the power supply has a male circular 7 pin DIN connector. Pins 1-3 are ground (...

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How are File Timestamps recorded in classic Mac OS?
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16 votes

The HFS filesystem stores file metadata in a single large file called the "catalog file", with one record for each file or directory. Creation and modification times are stored as 32-bit unsigned ...

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Atari 2600 high voltage output
16 votes

The Atari 2600 has an unregulated transformer. Transformers of this type only produce their design voltage under load; if you're just connecting a voltmeter between the output wires, it's going to ...

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Powering up old desktop games
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16 votes

Old games like these don't have much that can go wrong with them just from powering them up. The biggest problem with old electronics in general is that any electrolytic capacitors will dry out in ...

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How do I allocate more memory to an app on Sheepshaver running Mac OS 9?
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15 votes

Click on the application icon, select "Get info" from the "File" menu, and adjust the memory allocation in the window that pops up.

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Why are the PPU registers on the NES mirrored?
15 votes

"Incomplete decoding" means that the address decoder only pays attention to a few of the address lines: the high bits indicating the PPU chip and the three low bits selecting a register on that chip. ...

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Unable to install Colonization in DOSBox
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15 votes

Microprose tried to be clever in using BIOS calls to detect which disk is present in the floppy drive. However, the information that install.exe is looking for gets lost somewhere in the many ...

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What computer first facilitated multi-precision arithmetic
14 votes

Babbage's analytic engine was designed to do arbitrary-precision aritmetic. For multiplication, two 50-digit inputs produced a 100-digit output, with the lower 50 digits on the Egress Axis and the ...

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How many analogue RGB signal levels did the VIC-II have?
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14 votes

"Output levels" are a feature of digital-to-analog converters, particularly of the sort used with computer monitors with distinct red/green/blue signal channels. The VIC-II doesn't do this, so it's ...

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I have installed MS-DOS 6.22 on Virtual Box, do I have an ISA bus or a PCI bus?
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13 votes

If you went with VirtualBox's default settings for an MS-DOS system, you've got both: an Intel 440FX northbridge providing a PCI bus, and an Intel PIIX3 southbridge connected to that bus, providing an ...

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Are old versions of Windows at risk of modern malware attacks?
12 votes

Mostly no. Pre-XP versions of Windows are certainly vulnerable to targeted attacks, such as you'd see from Metasploit -- if you're the sort of high-value target that attracts such attacks, don't run ...

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What register size did early computers use?
12 votes

Typical register sizes varied wildly among the early computers. For example, ENIAC's early design had nothing but registers, and these were ten decimal digits wide. The Harvard Mark I was also ...

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First computer/video game in history
12 votes

Given your restrictions, the earliest computer game I can find is an implementation of checkers for the Pilot ACE, written in 1951 and debugged to the point of working in 1952. Other candidates are ...

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Was there a retro computer susceptible of being damaged only by issuing instructions at it?
11 votes

It's not particularly "retro", but many x86 computers in the early Pentium IV era could be permanently damaged in a matter of weeks by setting the operating voltage and frequency too high. This would ...

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How to access old laptop IDE hard drive
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11 votes

The easiest way is to get an external USB enclosure or USB-to-IDE adapter. IDE-to-SATA adapters exist, but they require opening up your computer to install. When selecting hardware, keep in mind ...

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Why weren't 80s arcade games programmed in C?
8 votes

Part of the reason is timing. Early- and mid-80s arcade machines didn't have anywhere near the hardware capabilities of modern systems. You couldn't just load an MP3 of background music into RAM and ...

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How can I connect this 3-pin Slot 1 CPU fan to my system that uses a 2-pin connector?
8 votes

Just plug it in, making sure the red and black wires are the ones on the pins. The connector should be keyed to enforce this. The yellow wire is for monitoring the fan's speed, and isn't required ...

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A good method for formatting a modern device in HFS (Not HFS+)
8 votes

The HFS Utilities package looks like it will let you format the disk from a Linux system; modern Windows may also be supported (it says "95/NT", which means you may run into permissions errors on ...

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