Will Hartung
  • Member for 4 years
  • Last seen this week
What is the most rudimentary input method a platform has ever been programmed in?
9 votes

I'll vote diode ROM matrices, soldered in place. Arguably, hardwiring the data bus to NOP to free run the CPU counts as well, but some may consider that an outlier as it's just "one instruction". ...

View answer
Did Radio Shack initially attempt to get a monopoly on commercial software for the TRS-80 Model I?
9 votes

I never heard of such a thing. I never read anything in any of the magazines. I've never heard any lingering of "remember when..." that you would think would flood the internet, even in this day in ...

View answer
How did the Apple IIGS automatically slow 5.25 inch disk I/O code for backwards compatability?
8 votes

In reference to the comment "Any idea how the IIGS implements those Disk II motor detectors?" There's this Technical Note #68: Tips for I/O Expansion Slot Card Design. It says: On the Apple ...

View answer
Why did decimal arithmetic slow down VisiCalc?
8 votes

6502 supported SIMPLE BCD arithmetic. I would bet that the VisiCalc guys in the end didn't even use that feature and wrote the whole thing from scratch. There's not just addition and subtraction, ...

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

I would simply consider the complexity of the ANTIC, POKEY, and GTIA chips -- how many transistors etc., and use that as a transistor budget for your gate arrays. Simply assume that the designers ...

View answer
Source code control on an MS-DOS system
Accepted answer
8 votes

RCS should work for you. I used it in the past. But, as you noticed, it's a rather primitive tool set. That can be mitigate a bit with some custom scripting, which is what I did. CVS, in fact, ...

View answer
Why do variable names in BASIC need type suffixes?
7 votes

Akin to Raffzahn's answer, yes, because it's BASIC. That said, later BASICs had DEFINT, DEFSTR, and such to set the types of variables upfront, so that you no longer had to use suffixes. Similar to ...

View answer
When and why did high-level language compilers start targeting assembly language rather than machine code?
7 votes

Turbo Pascal was made famous specifically because it skipped the assembly step (as well as most of the linking step). In a single pass it created raw, absolute located binary code and saved a lot of ...

View answer
Were there any filesystems support tag based key-value pairs before the 90s?
Accepted answer
7 votes

It would be remiss to neglect the original Mac HFS with its core support of the Resource Fork. A normal Macintosh file had two forks: the data fork, and the resource fork. The resource fork was a key/...

View answer
Why did 8-bit computers choose BASIC dialects as "de facto" command-line interface, instead of contemporary Shell/Lisp dialects?
7 votes

BASIC was cheap on resources. Cheap on ROM, cheap on RAM, functional and productive. Nothing else came close -- not even Forth (which really required a disk drive to be truly usable, though there were ...

View answer
Filesystems with versioning
7 votes

My experience is with the VAX and VMS. It had versioned files. Back in the day, it was not uncommon for some programs, like editors, to create a backup copy of the file you were working on. In the ...

View answer
Looking for a BASIC decruncher: inserting spaces between keywords
7 votes

Here's something that should do the trick. It's written in AWK. Any language I picked will be the wrong language. awk (or gawk) is everywhere. Copy and paste it into a file (say, expand.awk). awk -...

View answer
What exactly did Sony contribute to the original Apple PowerBook?
Accepted answer
7 votes

According to the Wikipedia article on the PB 170: Though released at the same time as the PowerBook 140 and PowerBook 100, both the 140 and 170 were designed entirely by Apple, while the 100 was ...

View answer
How can I debug a Mac OS Classic application?
Accepted answer
7 votes

Back in the day, MacNosy was the go to disassembler tool to attack things like that. He also wrote a debugger. I can't speak to its status today. Apparently the web site still exists: https://www....

View answer
What caused the demise of BASIC/BASICA in the late 1980's?
7 votes

Performance and tooling. Unless you go back and actually try to work on era appropriate hardware (or emulators at era appropriate speed), it's hard to appreciate just how good BASIC was for ...

View answer
New 6502 BASICs?
7 votes

There's EHBasic, which is (afaik) a re-invented BASIC (i.e. I do not believe it's a port from a vintage BASIC, but recreated out of whole cloth), but it seems pretty mundane and conventional. There's ...

View answer
Cheapest way to store and load small dataset in the 80s?
6 votes

The cheapest mechanism was paper. The storage method was printing it out. The entry method was typing it in. This is a tried and true technique that flourished into the 90s and is arguably still used ...

View answer
What software used Turbo Vision back in its prime time?
6 votes

You have to appreciate that the vast bulk of software written in the world never sees the light of day outside of the business that created it. There are millions of programmers worldwide working ...

View answer
How did databases use the 8087?
Accepted answer
6 votes

You need to understand that using the 8087 was effectively "free" for the developers and for the users. You linked in a floating point library that determined the existence of the 8087, and ...

View answer
Why were there no 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the m68k & 65xx lines of CPUs?
6 votes

Because binary compatibility in most cases is overrated and not worth compromising a design to maintain. The only reason to extend a chip family like that is to maintain binary compatibility. In ...

View answer
TRS-80 Accessory - Data Drawer File System
6 votes

Following up on @snips-n-snails. The use case for this is to organize printouts for reference. A simple example is that if someone wanted the ID of a vendor or customer, it was not untoward at the ...

View answer
BASIC09 and I-Code
6 votes

I can't speak to BASIC09 specifically, but there's quite a difference between an "i-code" and a tokenized form. At a minimum, the i-code, in the end, need not look at all like the source code, ...

View answer
Which microcomputer manufacturers developed their own Local Area Network systems?
6 votes

You can also consider GPIB/IEEE-488 to be a network. It's a "bus" but I think at this level the distinction is debatable. It allowed multiple devices, they were connected via daisy chained cables. You ...

View answer
BASIC-PLUS inline operators, do they actually make sense?
Accepted answer
6 votes

I honestly don't remember these structures when I ran BASIC-PLUS on RSTS/E, so I never used them. I did, however, use them pretty heavily when I moved to BASIC-PLUS on the VAX. I loved BASIC-PLUS on ...

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

First, Payroll is really apt for batch processing. It runs once a week or twice a month in general, and it tends to be all done at once on "payday". So each week the operators key in the ...

View answer
What was the most critical supporting software for COBOL on IBM mainframes?
5 votes

Different things happened. One, when mainframes were replaced, their applications were replaced with new applications written in modern languages for the new platforms. Many a IBM mainframe have been ...

View answer
Working on programming a retro z80 computer (SDCC error)
Accepted answer
5 votes

The problem is that you're trying to access the function parameter data, but the compiler does not expose that as a symbol to the internal assembler, so it's looking in the public, global namespace ...

View answer
Problem accessing Internet from old phones/PDAs (HTTPS, SSL, certificates, compatible services,....)
5 votes

The problem is the HTTPS today. There is a huge push to migrate off of HTTP and on to HTTPS. But older machines simply can't do the necessary encryption in time. But much of this can be mitigate off-...

View answer
Were some Atari 2600 games written in C?
5 votes

C didn't have anywhere near the popularity and ubiquity that it does today. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the 6502 is a crummy target for a C compiler, notably with it's sparse, 8 bit register set. ...

View answer
TI-86 sound capabilities
5 votes

Back in the TI-58/59 days, there was some games that made sounds using the natural ambient RF leakage of the device. You put it next to an AM radio, and then it would do internal loops of varying ...

View answer