Maury Markowitz
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Why does the Cray 2 use 400 Hz power, and why generate that from motors?
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47 votes

The reason for any higher frequency supply is almost always the same: you get to convert a single input to different voltages for less wasted heat in a smaller volume. Such systems were very common in ...

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How did Atari lose money on home computers?
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42 votes

In 1982 the original 400 and 800 were on the market. These were expensive machines to implement. Even the low-cost 400 was significantly more complex and expensive than something like a VIC-20. Say ...

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Was Objective-C really a hindrance to Apple software development?
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35 votes

Objective-C was by all accounts a nightmare to work with I loved it. Loved it. Some background: in the 90s I worked for a developer here in Toronto with a Mac and Win app. I wanted to work on the ...

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Why was IBM BASIC so Huge?
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29 votes

The early versions of Microsoft BASIC required 4KB of ROM The 4k versions lacked a number of major features, including string variables. These were added in the 8k versions. The equivalent 6502 ...

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Benchmark test that was used to characterize an 8-bit CPU?
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25 votes

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 ...

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How were the special effects achieved for the Kraftwerk Die Roboter 1978 music video?
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23 votes

All of these effects are being created using beam splitters to combine two images of the original recording. The lower resolution is a product of the second image, the lower in the horizontal split ...

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What type of interpreter were most 8-bit BASIC implementations?
15 votes

were these interpreters implemented as tree-walker interpreters (simply traversing the parse tree) or bytecode interpreters? I have been looking at various BASICs for the last while. The answer is "...

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Looking for an old image of designing a CPU with plan laid out / being edited on a literal floor
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15 votes

I suspect you may be thinking of a short scene from either The Day the Universe Changed (unlikely) or Connections (more likely). James Burke visited Bell Labs and there is a scene where you see ...

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How much better was DEC Alpha than contemporaneous x86?
12 votes

Alpha fizzled in the face of the HP/Intel partnership pushing their Itanium 64-bit architecture I think it's important to note that during this period, there was a widespread belief that the VLIW ...

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Can anyone help me identify this computer?
12 votes

This is one of dozens (hundreds?) of luggable designs that came out of Taiwan and other far east nations in the late 80s/early 90s before everything reverted back to the AT case style. The case was ...

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PET space arcade game with surprisingly good graphics
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12 votes

And it's definitely Star Spores. I found an interview with the author, who it turns out lives fairly close to me, and he mentioned the line-drawing routine which I'm sure is referring to the lightning ...

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Was self-modifying code possible using BASIC?
11 votes

Atari BASIC included the "ENTER" keyword, which was the "opposite of" LIST. Whereas LIST wrote a program to text, ENTER read a program from text. One could use ENTER to read libraries by adding those ...

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Are there any old and nowadays active Operating Systems which has only BASIC Programming Language?
11 votes

Some old Operating Systems I hear have only BASIC Programming Language It was more the case that BASIC was the operating system. Various commands for working with devices like floppy disks and ...

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How fast were BASIC interpreters in the 80s? (Is this optimization for speed really necessary?)
10 votes

Your version is dramatically slower. I did minor changes to get it to run on Atari BASIC simply because I can cut and paste code into my Atari 800 emulator. I added an internal timer, that's the PEEKs ...

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Why did Visual Basic use parentheses for both function call and array access?
10 votes

A number of BASICs from the minicomputer era used []'s for array access. The most notable was HP Timeshare BASIC, which I assume inspired the other versions that used the same syntax. In HP, it was ...

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What languages are better fit for generating efficient code for 8-bit CPU's than C?
10 votes

The main problem for high-level-languages on these platforms, and especially the 6502, is the small hardware stack. 256 bytes does not give one much room to work with for languages that intend to push ...

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Why did trackballs disappear?
10 votes

Dirt is another issue. In a mouse, the hole where the ball is exposed is pointed down and stuff naturally falls out. On a trackball it naturally falls in. Goop, especially skin oils, gets stuck to ...

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Why were early versions of BASIC different?
10 votes

I'll speak to the Atari BASIC issue. MS BASIC for the 6502 was ported directly from the original 8080 code. On the 8080, the code was well under 8 kB, which allowed the complete BASIC interpreter and ...

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Why did SCSI require so many pins?
9 votes

Then why did SCSI require so many pins? Differential signaling. The original standard was actually a 25-pin system using an 8-bit parallel signal going in one direction only. There was a separate ...

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MITS to Dell: the mail order gap?
9 votes

Why did nobody between MITS and Dell make it big purely in mail-order sales? The Sinclair ZX81 neatly refutes your statement. But more broadly, your claim depends entirely on your definition of "big"...

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Can we express the instructions to the Analytical Engine in terms of assembler or machine code?
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9 votes

Yes. In fact, it is a very simple system in machine language terms. The key to understanding the system is to look at the physical construction of the part you saw. This is what we would today would ...

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Differences between 4k, 8k and Extended Altair BASIC?
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9 votes

And I found the answer only moments later when I came across the original manual. The difference is that the 4k version (mainly) did not have strings (!!), lacked a number of math functions (ATN, etc),...

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What was the 2nd best selling computer ever?
9 votes

Commodore famously inflated their sales numbers, so while you'll find many resources claiming 25 or 30 million 64's sold, it appears the number is closer to 17 million. Behind that are two machines ...

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How can I ensure my computer design is not anachronistic?
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8 votes

I have a strange desire to make an imaginary competitor to the Atari 800 So there are a couple of places one could build a better 800 and still be entirely within the 1979 (well actually, 1978) ...

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How to decode an audio file which contains an MSX BASIC program?
8 votes

The good news is the next few steps are easy. Most (all?) of the MSX emulators include a "virtual tape" that can open a WAV file. openMSX does for sure. It's right in the instructions for the ...

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Texas Instruments SN502
8 votes

I understand the interest in selling this so I would beg you to contact the Computer History Museum as your first attempt. This is clearly an important bit of history and should be preserved in a (...

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How common was programming in C targeting 8-bit processors in 1983?
7 votes

Full C compilers on the 8-bit series was not widely seen, but "mini-C" and "tiny-C" compilers were fairly common. One example is the OSS tiny-C for the Atari machines or Abacus on ...

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Were expansion slots fundamentally incompatible with FCC regulations?
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7 votes

Why was Apple unable to comply with the limits when e.g. Atari managed it? Purely through engineering that Apple was unwilling to carry out. I have added a relatively detailed explanation of this ...

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Why were pipes removed from the Lisa?
7 votes

As the manual explains: Pipes (See Section 2 .. 9) The pipe facility has been removed. MAKE_PIPE has:been deleted, and any attempt to OPEN an old pipe object will return an error number 948. ...

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Was Vilnius BASIC cross-platform?
7 votes

Well this certainly isn't exhaustive, but from what I can see the answer is no. I still find it fascinating that the Soviet basic school computer was a PDP-11 in a micro format. It makes me wonder ...

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