mschaef
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What key factor led to the sudden commercial success of MS Windows with v3.0?
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86 votes

Stephen Kitt covers the bases well, but I think the majority of the reason relates to fact that Windows 3.0 finally brought 286 protected mode execution to the masses. Even though the 80286 was first ...

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Were there 8086 coprocessors other than the 8087?
81 votes

Not all of the original co-processors were for floating point math. Intel itself offered an I/O coprocessor for the 8088 and 8086 called the 8089. Part of the reason it didn't do as well as the 8087 ...

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What did the 'turbo' button actually do?
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75 votes

The Turbo button originally adjusted the clock speed of the computer between the full speed of the machine and a slower speed intended to be compatible with something more industry standard. It wasn't ...

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What conventions and language extensions did people use to program the 8086 and 80286?
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43 votes

What it boils down to is that, unlike in a flat addressing model, there are multiple types of pointers: near - 16-bit (16-bit offset only.) far - 32-bit (16-bit offset + 16-bit segment) huge - The ...

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Last computer not to use octets / 8-bit bytes
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35 votes

In the early 1990's CDC sold a line of Cyber 180 mainframes. These machines were descendants of the CDC 6600 and supported that machine's 60-bit word size and 6-bit characters. Notably, one of the ...

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

In the personal/home computer space, the usual model was that the machine shipped with built in BASIC and the ability to save and load data from an attached cassette tape. This includes the original ...

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Any ways to have an architecture with a different base than base16?
16 votes

Early in the history of computing, it wasn't uncommon to have machines that were physically designed to operate in base-10. (Even if signalling was internally on/off.) Designers of the time understood ...

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Were there VLB cards other than video cards and SuperIO controllers?
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16 votes

VLB was a stopgap solution to fix ISA. The 16-bit ISA bus originated in the original PC AT (1984) and was showing its age by the time of the 486. Not only was it 16-bits, system designers had long ...

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Was there a clearly identifiable "first computer" to use or demonstrate the use of virtual memory?
12 votes

IBM's original virtual memory machine was the System/360 Model 67, released in 1965, which was a variant of the Model 65 modified to add the address translation logic necessary to add virtual memory ...

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When did hardware antialiasing start being available?
6 votes

This was in no way part of a hardware assisted 3D pipeline, but there were attempts made in PC-class hardware to achieve anti-aliasing even as early as 1990. Edsun Labs made a drop in replacement ...

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Compaq Portable vs IBM 5155 Portable PC
5 votes

Which makes it surprising that the IBM portable PC flopped; it looks to me like essentially the same product, only with the IBM nameplate; I would expect this to be an attractive proposition for the ...

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

Damaging the computer itself is hard to imagine, but damaging peripherals is much easier. Back in the early days of Linux (94-95), configuring the X11 server (that put graphics on the screen) required ...

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Which computers had redefinable character sets?
4 votes

The big value-add feature advertised for the Hercules Graphics Card Plus was RamFont, or re-definable character sets. Custom characters could be uploaded into the card, and rendered as part of a 3072 ...

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Did the PC/AT-bus use its expanded address space?
4 votes

So in the 286 era, you didn't need to put memory cards on the system bus anymore. There were a number of driving factors that decoupled memory expansion from the ISA expansion bus, but early 286 ...

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What is most appropriate choice for DOS for a 1990 80386 PC?
4 votes

I remember running a version of DOS 4.0 on my 1989-era 386sx machine, along with DesqView/386. Shortly thereafter, we installed Windows 3.0 and then MS DOS 5.0... As far as being period correct and ...

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Early programmable calculators with RS-232
2 votes

I don't know how 'early' this is, but in 1990, the HP48 series had built in RS232. In addition to the IR used by the immediately preceding HP28, there was also a four pin serial connector on the ...

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How were files transferred between different systems in the late 1980s?
1 votes

There were a couple basic strategies I remember employing for migrating data from one PC to another. The simplest of these was just moving disks from one PC to another. For small volumes of data, this ...

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