manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact
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Why wasn't ASCII designed with a contiguous alphanumeric character order?
Accepted answer
123 votes

Why is ASCII this way? First of all, there is no one best sorting order for everything. For example, should UPPER or lower case be first? Should numbers be before or after letters? Too many choices, ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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

Try THE OLDSCHOOL PC FONT RESOURCE Looks positively awesome to me. I started by looking for IBM MDA - the classic 9x14 font, and I found this site. License is Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike ...

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Why is the processor instruction called "move", not "copy"?
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33 votes

Because "move" is the typical necessary function It isn't always this way, of course, but especially with earlier CPUs, there were limited destinations for data from a particular operation - e.g., ...

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Why is the Intel 8086 CPU called a 16-bit CPU?
32 votes

But why the Intel 8086 CPU is called a 16-bit CPU even though its address bus is 20-bit, shouldn't it be called a 20-bit CPU? Address bus size is probably the least used method to determine CPU "size"...

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Why did trackballs disappear?
32 votes

Trackballs are Alive and Well I have a Logitech M570 for my desktop computer. I have another one for my laptop. I got another one for my daughter. Every few years they break and I replace them. I find ...

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Was it possible to send data over the phone-line without a modem?
30 votes

TL;DR If it acts like a modem, it IS a modem. What is a modem? a combined device for modulation and demodulation, for example, between the digital data of a computer and the analog signal of a ...

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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, ...

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Why weren't audio decoders used to create a makeshift internet in the 70 and 80s?
26 votes

Much more than speed (typical ordinary user modems in the 1970s and even early 1980s were just 300 bps), the problem was long distance. Many areas did not even have unlimited local calling at the ...

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History of Ctrl-S and Ctrl-Q for flow control
24 votes

First OS is hard to say. The codes go back to the 1960s with the Teletype Model 33. I have a hunch the original usage was not part of an operating system but at a lower level. In later times, ...

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Were later MS-DOS versions still implemented in x86 assembly?
23 votes

Low Memory ==> Assembly Language In the early days every byte mattered. MS-DOS was, in many ways, an outgrowth of CP/M. CP/M had a fairly hard limit of 64K. Yes, there were some bank switching in ...

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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 ...

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Why weren't bootable game disks ever common on the IBM PC?
21 votes

The IBM PC was NOT a Game Machine Plenty of people played plenty of games on IBM & compatible computers. But the IBM PC was designed as a business machine, not a game machine. This is most obvious ...

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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 ...

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How did the Commodore 64 show a picture while reading cassette?
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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 ...

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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 ...

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Single level file directory
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17 votes

The whole CP/M family of operating systems, until Concurrent DOS, had both a limited number of files per drive and no hierarchy except for user areas. From the Wikipedia article: CP/M 2.2 had no ...

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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 ...

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WordStar's "column mode"
16 votes

Took me a while to write this and another answer showed up. But submitting it anyway because I am such a huge fan of WordStar and have the keystrokes in muscle memory. There are a few different ...

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Why were teletype printers not used for DOS computers?
Accepted answer
16 votes

Speed Teletypes were not all limited to use over a modem. Many (e.g., the Model 43 - I had one of those) even had an RS232 compatible interface and could easily be used as a regular computer printer. ...

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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 ...

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What happens when a terminal (like a VT100) is connected to a computer?
14 votes

Does this mean that everything must be already set up for the user login on this port? Like a TTY driver already listening on the port, the login process already running, Exactly. In every system I'...

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Why didn't PostScript eliminate the need for printer drivers?
13 votes

Cost There are significant licensing costs and equipment costs. I'm sure PostScript needs quite a bit more RAM & processing than some of the lower levels of PCL and similar printer languages. As I ...

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

Univac 36-bit The Univac 1100/2200 series used a 36-bit word. Many models had functions to work with a word as 4 9-bit "bytes" - using the term byte but fitting your definition of a non-byte computer ...

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How to use USB flash drives with Windows 98 SE?
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12 votes

File System Windows 98 typically uses FAT32, whereas later versions of Windows support NTFS. While it should recognize a flash drive at the low-level hardware no matter what file system is installed, ...

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

I have done my share of transfers between incompatible systems. There were some service bureaus that could convert floppy disks between different systems, and I used some to convert CP/M-86 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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