Interesting Questions, Facts, and Information
weaving looms. The Jacquard Loom used the holes punched in cards to create intricate patterns in woven fabrics. Punch cards were also used in player pianos and music boxes.
Digital Equipment Co.. Digital Equipment (DEC) made the pdp and later the VAX series of computers. Your Palm Pilot, cell phone, or digital camera probably has more memory and a faster processor than their minicomputer, the pdp-8, did!
|Xerox founded the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), but which company is best known for introducing their ideas of the graphical user interface?||Computers Before The PC
Apple Computer. Apple based their Lisa (later Macintosh) operating system on work done on graphical user interfaces at PARC.
Honeywell. Multics incorporated many ideas which would be used by later operating systems, such as tree-structured directories. Unix was designed to be a simple Multics.
memory. Core memory was so called because each bit was stored in a doughnut-shaped piece of iron, with three wires running through its center, or core. Even the largest systems had very little memory when 2 Mb of core would fill a space the size of a refrigerator!
The inventor of COBOL.. Admiral Hopper wrote COBOL to be a programming language for general business use. It was supposed to be easier to understand than either Fortran or assembly language.
|Tracy Kidder's 1981 Pulitzer Prize winning book "The Soul of a New Machine" was written about the development of which Massachusetts company's "super minicomputer" system?||Computers Before The PC
Data General's MV/8000. Tracy Kidder wrote this book about the team at Data General who designed the MV/8000, one of the first super-minicomputers.
|Some, but not all versions of BASIC had a "Trace" feature which would display each line number of a program while the program was running so as to make it easier to debug. In most cases, the command used to turn on this feature was the title of a Disney movie character. What character name would turn on the trace feature?||Basic BASIC (for Old School Computers)
TRON. TRON, from the Disney movie of the same name. Actually, TRON, in the BASIC programming language, stood for "Trace On", and to turn tracing off, of course, you would type TROFF.
|In BASIC, you would use the GOSUB command to send the computer to a subroutine (a section of the program designed to perform a specific routine or task). What was the command used to send the program back from the subroutine?||Basic BASIC (for Old School Computers)
RETURN. Subroutines would allow you to write programs within programs, then go to them from many different places. This would allow you to save time by not having to repeat yourself over and over. For example:
10 INPUT "What is the capital of Washington State?";A$
20 IF A$="Olympia" THEN GOSUB 100: GOTO 40
30 GOSUB 150
40 INPUT "What is the largest city in Washington State?"; B$
50 IF B$="Seattle" THEN GOSUB 100: GOTO 70
60 GOSUB 150
70 PRINT "Your Score Is";X: END
100 PRINT "Correct!": X=X+10: RETURN
150 PRINT "Incorrect.": X=X-5: RETURN
In this example, I have written a subroutine at line 100 for correct answers (print "Correct!", add 10 points to the score X, then return from the subroutine), and another at line 150 for the incorrect one (print "Incorrect", subtract 5 points from the score X, then return from the subroutine).
If, in line 20, the answer is correct, the program will go to the subroutine at line 100 and then, upon returning, will go to line 40. If the answer is not correct, it will skip the rest of line 20 and go straight to 30, which will then send the program to the subroutine at line 150.
RETURN sends the program back to the last GOSUB.
Different computers' versions used completely different commands for routine things. Different computers used different commands for many routine tasks. For example, to clear the screen on an Apple II, you typed HOME. On a TRS-80, you typed CLS. On a TI-99/4A, it was CALL CLEAR, and on an Atari 800, it was GRAPHICS 0.
Even on the same computer, there were sometimes incompatibilities. For example, a program written on TRS-80 Level I BASIC was incompatible with Level II BASIC, and likewise, Apple Integer BASIC and Applesoft BASIC were incompatible.
Many people learned how to use computers at school and at home, and frequently they had different kinds of machines at each place (an Apple II at school, and a much less expensive Atari 800 or Commodore 64 at home, for example). Programs written for one were not compatible with the other, even though 95% of the programming was the same.
|In BASIC, you had numeric variables and you had string variables. Numeric variables were numbers, plain and simply. LET X=45, for example. String variables were letters, numbers, symbols, phrases, etc. "This sentence could be contained in a string variable." What symbol after a letter signified a string variable?||Basic BASIC (for Old School Computers)
$ (LET X$="Word"). The Dollar sign ($) signified a string variable.
In BASIC, the LET statement was actually optional. Rather than typing LET A=10, you could simply state A=10. Instead of saying LET X$="Hello", you could say X$="Hello".
?. This shortcut would save some small amount of time, since a large part of any program was indicating what would go onto the screen. Using a ? instead of typing PRINT may have saved only four keystrokes, but for some reason it seemed like so much more.
10 ? "Hello" would do the same as 10 PRINT "Hello".
It was an acronym. BASIC stood for "Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code." It was developed in 1963 at Dartmouth College, but really took hold with the home computer explosion of the late 1970s and early 1980s. One of the first versions of BASIC for a home computer was Altair BASIC, written in 1975 by a couple guys you may have heard of--Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the founders of Microsoft.