manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact
  • Member for 4 years, 9 months
  • Last seen this week
  • Silver Spring, MD, United States
What is a Dumb Terminal?
21 votes

I suggest a somewhat different definition of dumb terminal. While clearly some terminals were smarter than others, I don't think things such as programmable selection of fonts and colors, direct ...

View answer
Why do Game Boy Colors not want nickel-cadmium batteries?
36 votes

I suspect more "don't disappoint the users" than "harm to the device". From the Wikipedia AA article, not only is the nominal voltage lower (1.2V vs. 1.5V for both alkaline and ...

View answer
Why was computer memory so expensive and scarce?
Accepted answer
43 votes

As noted in some initial comments (but I feel fine answering, as I had the exact same ideas when I read the question), this is a general progression of technology but there are two very specific ...

View answer
How did the Commodore 64 show a picture while reading cassette?
Accepted answer
18 votes

TL;DR Should not be a problem. There are two separate issues: predictable timing Actually, I would expect that standard video memory access and similar things would have very predictable timing. I ...

View answer
Was there a technical advantage to such tall PC tower cases?
19 votes

In addition to just general ease of service & upgrades, motherboards used to be much bigger, particularly if you had a motherboard with lots of RAM and built-in ports. To the right of the ...

View answer
How to get Windows XP to detect a DB-15 gameport joystick?
Accepted answer
8 votes

It looks like you need to explicitly add the device - i.e., it isn't plug 'n play like USB or even like a lot of older devices (e.g., mice & keyboards on PS/2 ports). Microsoft: To install a game ...

View answer
Why doesn’t my VGA-to-HDMI converter work with my 286 PC?
47 votes

The manual says that the smallest resolution it can handle is 800x600. That is almost certainly the key. Original VGA supported 640x480 16-colors and 720x400 (essentially a small step up from the ...

View answer
Is there a softmodem driver package for Linux?
2 votes

Not terribly authentic if it is all simulated like that. But more importantly, there is the complication that while much of a modem's capabilities can be handled by software instead of hardware (...

View answer
Why did PCs for the longest time have a default "memory test" on boot which caused them to take a long time to start?
2 votes

Diagnostics have changed Modern machines have far more built-in diagnostic capability. The first couple of generations didn't even have any interactive setup pages - you set everything with dip ...

View answer
How did Capcom make the decision to produce 1942?
9 votes

From Wikipedia: this was due to being the first Capcom game designed with Western markets in mind In a way, no different from many, many, many other products sold around the world in "hostile&...

View answer
What's the origin of terminating strings by setting the high bit of the last character?
16 votes

WordStar As noted here, WordStar set the 8th bit of the last character of each word. This was a key difference between Document mode and Non-Document mode. Non-Document mode also did not automatically ...

View answer
DOS serial printer formats
10 votes

This is a classic data conversion problem. I have done similar things many times over the years with both parallel and serial printer ports and a variety of different operating systems. The other ...

View answer
How did early laser printers get by with so little memory?
26 votes

In addition to Raffzahn's usual excellent answer, a few important things to note: PCL still exists. You can (I do...) still write software that sends simple PCL commands to a printer to select fonts, ...

View answer
What was the most common method of internet access for small offices in 1990s in USA?
5 votes

In most places, it was dial-up until ADSL. I had two customers with ISDN for a while, both replaced with ADSL when available. One was sometime in the late 90s until 2003, the other roughly 2003-2004. ...

View answer
What was the earliest system to explicitly support threading based on shared memory?
15 votes

Ah, memories of Computer Science 412. In the Digital Research family of operating systems, MP/M II (1981, possibly earlier variants, but this is what I found quickly) as noted in the programmer's ...

View answer
What did order processing on a teletype look like?
5 votes

A few pieces: Why does one so often hear of payroll, specifically, being an early application of such systems? It seems to me this is partly because the payroll of a big company involved a lot of ...

View answer
CPU slaves on a PCI card to retrofit single processor to multiple processors. Any ideas how?
Accepted answer
5 votes

CompuPro did this in the olden days, with 8-bit and 16-bit CPU slave cards with a 16-bit or 32-bit main CPU. But there were a few differences from what you are suggesting: Each CPU had its own RAM. ...

View answer
How much did the first hard drives for PCs cost?
2 votes

I just found a great web page: Disk Drive Prices 1955+, which has one simple chart showing yearly, and in later years monthly, prices of drives. The page was made by John C. McCallum - more details ...

View answer
Why did mainframes have big conspicuous power-off buttons?
3 votes

Stop A Big "Oops" While I suspect that, short of national security situations (like say shutting off WOPR before it launches a first strike), mainframes were not deliberately shut off to ...

View answer
Were any IBM mainframes ever run multiuser?
9 votes

But were any of them used like the college-lab VAX, to provide a bunch of people with interactive shell accounts that could run arbitrary code? Absolutely 100%! TL;DR University of Maryland - ...

View answer
Why did decimal arithmetic slow down VisiCalc?
Accepted answer
10 votes

A number like 1234.56 takes three bytes in BCD where it would've taken eight bytes in double precision binary floating point. Generally speaking, that is not the case. If you have a database field ...

View answer
Why user-assembled kits?
18 votes

if every machine will be sold preassembled, the vendor can invest in things like wave soldering equipment that can do the job much more efficiently than a user doing it once on the kitchen table I ...

View answer
Are the control characters any useful nowadays?
2 votes

I posit that the original use of control characters was strictly for non-textual usage. In other words, things that don't print. In ye olden times, that was the primary way to communicate anything ...

View answer
Why did the SWTPC 6800 Computer System not take off?
5 votes

I strongly suspect CP/M was the key. Plenty of 8080 (and by extension, Z80) machines ran other operating systems, particularly the Radio Shack TRS-80 line. But the basics of Altair, Imsai, Osborne, ...

View answer
Why doesn't Nintendo fire up the old factories and re-produce *exact* copies of many of their most popular games, controllers and consoles?
8 votes

Cost While the actual design work is already done, it is quite possible that much of the production-related equipment - e.g., molds for cases and controllers - is long gone. If so, that would all need ...

View answer
Were the 80s more educational on IT?
Accepted answer
6 votes

Warning, Subjective & Location-based This is a poor question in two ways - it is both subjective (how do you "value" learning about different computer languages, different types of ...

View answer
Why were "data modems" so much more expensive compared to "fax modems" back in the day?
5 votes

There are actually a few slightly different pieces of hardware involved. As a starting point though, note that for many years the price of a standalone fax machine, essentially a high-speed (for the ...

View answer
What are the sizes of the hex nut drivers in the classic "nine piece" computer toolkit
Accepted answer
6 votes

I believe you are referring to one of these: This one is actually an 11-piece. But same basic stuff. I've used & lost quite a few of these over the years. According to the specs: Includes ...

View answer
HDD data recovery advice
2 votes

Buy IDE to usb connector and see if it boots? Close, but not quite. Do not try to boot the drive. That will almost certainly not work. What you want to do is simply read the drive on a new computer. ...

View answer
Why do PCs boot in 720x400 resolution?
8 votes

Most of the typical full color resolutions were based on 4:3 ratio - e.g., 640x480, 800x600, etc. - which matched the aspect ratio of broadcast television at the time. Using a 4:3 pixel ratio on a 4:3 ...

View answer