scruss
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How was early randomness generated?
78 votes

Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin — John von Neumann The method that RAND used to calculate their A Million Random Digits with 100,...

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What was "the shrinkwrap issue?"
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50 votes

The shrinkwrap issue was a vicious circle perceived by the computer industry in the late 1980s to early 1990s. In essence: With many different processors and binary formats, it was difficult for a ...

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How can I play QBasic Nibbles on a modern machine?
35 votes

DOSBox, with the default CPU speed of 3000 cycles on this Linux box, runs nibbles.bas without problems.

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Does this computer have a steering wheel?
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31 votes

Via TinEye, I found this image on a Snopes FACT CHECK page: Claim: Photograph shows RAND Corporation’s 1954 design for a home computer. It's a hoax image, a composite of a submarine maneuvering room ...

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In what language(s) is the return value set by assigning to the function’s name?
29 votes

Fortran, for sure: PROGRAM TRIANG WRITE(UNIT=*,FMT=*)'Enter lengths of three sides:' READ(UNIT=*,FMT=*) SIDEA, SIDEB, SIDEC WRITE(UNIT=*,FMT=*)'Area is ', AREA3(SIDEA,SIDEB,...

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Did the computer mouse always output relative x/y and not absolute?
28 votes

It was by no means a mass market device, but Hayward and Ramstein's Pantograph (1993) encoded linkage positions as absolute coordinates. It also provided force feedback, and could ‘drive’ itself based ...

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Did many programs really store years as two characters (Y2K bug)?
27 votes

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 ...

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Does the industry continue to produce outdated architecture CPUs with leading-edge process?
23 votes

They're not quite cutting-edge process sizes, but there are current 8051-core micro-controllers that do much better than the 1981 original's 12 MHz on 3.5-μm process silicon. For example, the Cast ...

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Why were closed tape loops never a popular storage medium (or were they)?
23 votes

They were used, but suffered from latency issues and complex electro-mechanical design challenges. Their brief day in the sun was around the mid-1950s: after that, it was likely cheaper to add another ...

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Rescuing data from old audio cassettes
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22 votes

There's so much to go wrong in a cassette mechanism that it's amazing they worked at all. can you adjust tape head azimuth? Misalignment is responsible for a lot of sound problems. how clean are your ...

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Retrocomputing software development process/methodologies
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22 votes

From a UK/Z80-based perspective: More than a few games were published using little more than a ZX Spectrum, a tape recorder, a copy of The Complete Spectrum ROM Disassembly borrowed from the public ...

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What was the end of line convention for text files on the 8-bit Commodores
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21 votes

C64 Basic used a CR as EOL for disk files. (source: Commodore SX-64 User's Guide, page 22: “CR stands for the CHR$ code 13, the carriage return, which is automatically PRINTed at the end of ever ...

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Was the Apple II ever sold in kit form?
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20 votes

Apple II is also available in board-only form for the do-it-yourself hobbyist. Has all of the features of the Apple II system, but does not include case, keyboard, power supply or game paddles. $598. ...

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Why did BASIC programs tend to READ a redundant copy of DATA?
19 votes

DATA is a kind of weird holdover from FORTRAN and batch-processing. It is not memory efficient, but it was part of the programming vocabulary of the day. In FORTRAN, inline data can look like this: ...

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What was the ASCII end of medium (EM) character intended to be used for?
19 votes

Wikipedia “Intended as means of indicating on paper or magnetic tapes that the end of the usable portion of the tape had been reached.”, if en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C0_and_C1_control_codes#EM is to be ...

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Loading ZX Spectrum tape audio in a post-cassette world
19 votes

I've confirmed that mcleod_ideafix's method is reliable for regular tape images. Here is a shell script to do (effectively) the same thing: #!/bin/bash # wav2differential.sh - convert mono game tape ...

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In 2020 are there fully assembled z80 devices available at reasonable cost?
18 votes

Bill's MinZ180 is tiny, fast, fully assembled, and falls within your price range. . He may have one or two left, I'm not sure.

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Identifying this 6502 Assembler
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18 votes

I think it's xa (xa65): ☑ #include "foobar" ☑ define the address to be assembled to via *=$1234 ☑ define labels without a colon ☑ Comments are marked with a leading ; ☑ specifying characters as ...

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Make a BASIC TAP file readable on Linux
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18 votes

listbasic, from the fuse-emulator-utils Debian package: $ listbasic rainbow2.tap 10 REM Rainbowtype 2.0 20 BORDER 0 30 PAPER 0 40 CLS 50 LET b=0 60 BRIGHT b 70 INK 7 100 REM ...

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BBC/Acorn BASIC, what made it so fast?
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17 votes

Most of BBC BASIC's speed advantage came from Acorn's use of a 2 MHz 6502 with fast 4816A RAM chips. It's a good interpreter, but it's the hardware that makes it near-mythically fast. To confirm this, ...

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Did any European computers use 10-line fonts?
17 votes

Teletext — as seen in the BBC Micro's MODE 7 — used more than 8 lines for its font: (The line spacing in the image is incorrect, but to the best of my knowledge the pixel imagery is correct)

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What early home computers have more than one CPU, where both could be used by the programmer?
17 votes

The spectacularly rare Atari Transputer Workstation from 1989 supported up to 13 parallel processing Transputer CPUs. Multiple processors communicated with one another, and allowed sharing of suitable ...

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Why was it not possible to cost-reduce the Amiga 500?
16 votes

They did, with the A600. But in true late-stage Commodore fashion, they screwed it up and made it more expensive. To cost-reduce an A500, you'd have to reproduce its spec on simpler silicon. The ...

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What machine used POKE for printing?
Accepted answer
15 votes

It was for Microsoft 8K BASIC for Altair. You're right that Nova BASIC didn't/wouldn't use POKE: it wasn't a keyword in either Single User BASIC (1970) or the later Extended BASIC. But Basic Computer ...

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Did the computer mouse always output relative x/y and not absolute?
15 votes

Some of the HP Omnibook series of laptops and sub-notebooks from the mid 1990s had a curious pop-out “mouse on a stick”: While hardly part of the original mouse timeline dating back to the 1960s, ...

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Low-cost sound chip
15 votes

May I recommend the TI SN76489, then? 3 channels + noise, clocked from a 4 MHz input. Small, cheap. Sounds like chiptunes. Simple to program. Easy to get surplus. Only drawbacks: it powers on ...

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Is there a C64(or any other) emulation that can be run in terminal?
Accepted answer
15 votes

If you wish to limit emulation to running Commodore BASIC v2 in the terminal, cbmbasic seems to be a transpilation of the BASIC ROM to portable (if almost unreadable) C.

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What is the name of this computer? (Bell Laboratories, 1954)
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14 votes

It's likely part of the Bell Model VI relay computer, installed at Bell Labs in 1949. This was a revision of the massive Model V designed and built by Bell, which were installed at NACA (1946) and BRL ...

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Are there vintage or historical bitmapped fonts available for non-commercial use?
14 votes

Damien Guard's series of articles starting with Typography in 8 bits: System fonts has versions of almost all of the old system fonts you might remember. If you don't mind digging about in ROM images,...

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Apple II GS versus Mac Plus cost
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14 votes

The Macintosh sold for more because — as the shiny new thing — it could be sold for more. It was marketed as an aspirational product, not sold as a reasonable markup on an engineering BOM. The IIgs ...

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