Are questions about the history of computer systems on-topic, even when there's no intent of running them now?

This site is about retrocomputing, not about computing history. But computing history is kind of inherent in retrocomputing, so… I don't know. Does it count as retrocomputing if a question is solely about a system's impact back when it was new, and not about making that system work in a modern context?

This would be a typical example (it's also on-topic where it is, on Unix & Linux; but is it on-topic here?).

4 Answers 4


I think we should be inclusive of computing history questions here, there's no other real suitable place on the network and there's plenty to be learned from the history of various companies that can give insights into the hardware designs etc.

  • 2
    As long as it's related to retrocomputing, though. The issue with "what is history? what is news or too recent?" is going to pop up at some point.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 9:05
  • Agreed... if the 'history' is regarding machines that wouldn't fit on the site, then the history doesn't fit on the site.
    – Matt Lacey Mod
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 9:57
  • By definition, this site is concerned with the application of historical artefacts (machines, software, etc.) and information. There are ways of placing history within context for the purpose of constructing good questions and answers.
    – user12
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 15:28
  • I'd agree that retrocomputing history totally belongs. We're talking about the use and enhancement of historical objects, so not talking about their history would be like talking about classic art without talking about their context. Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 20:31
  • I agree with this answer, and it's comments. I don't think you can talk about retro computing and not take the history of these machines into account. Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 21:28
  • While I fully agree that computing related history (e.g. one focused on the computing part) has a place at RC.SE, I firmly believe doing so because "there's no other real suitable place on the network" is a false argument as it does not give a positive identification. Not belonging anywhere else does not mean belonging here. RC.SE is no Restmülltonne.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 23:35
  • That's a fair point. Though to be honest I think after 8 years of history questions it's kninda moot now. Amazing how fast the time has gone!
    – Matt Lacey Mod
    Commented Jan 3 at 11:23

It should be inherently on-topic as these types of questions are on-topic for our site.

But these questions should be made sure they are not like:

When was {product} first released?


In what year was the most retro machinery bought

and etc. I can't think of good examples so I'll let the community post some questions and decide for themselves what is on-topic and what is not. Of course, when that is determined, I will edit my answer to match that.


I feel any question that begins with 'Why...' is probably historical, and is very unlikely to be on topic.

It happens that there many contributors who know a lot about the past, including several that worked for computing companies, and who may have inside information. It is natural that questions about computer/ video game history will naturally arouse interest.

I would rather this site focused on using older hardware and/or software (including games) than became a forum for discussion of the past.

  • 1
    The original question (is history on-topic?) was asked over 7 years ago, and I think has long been settled in the affirmative. "Why" questions may be considered off-topic if they can only be answered by opinion.
    – dave
    Commented Jan 13 at 16:49

Hmm, I would find it distracting myself and would prefer the community to focus on hardware and software. Plenty of history would be relevant along the way.

But just Q&A about history ... I think those are more like discussions with differing opinions and recollections, mis-remembered facts, other people filling in the blanks.

I would hope it has a home somewhere - and a more appropriate home than the SE format.

  • 2
    I have to take umbrage with the statement that history is all opinion or hearsay. If this were true, then most of what we consider, well, "truth" would be completely meaningless. What we want are reasonably verified and verifiable statements that put some specific piece of information in its proper context. Which is what historians do, and what we can do, too.
    – user12
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 15:25
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    @jdv: No need to take umbrage. My point (an opinion) is that history may take debate to establish, and I feel SE is not a great format for that.I'm not saying it's not important - it is. Anyway, someone provided a Yes answer to vote on. It's necessary for someone to provide a No answer so that the community can decide by voting. Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 1:54
  • “differing opinions and recollections, mis-remembered facts, other people filling in the blanks” – that’s why in history, objective sources are so important. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 12:00
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    @user3840170: Sure. This answer was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I've actually been enjoying some of the history Q&A's recently, I guess I was wrong to an extent even on my own perspective. Still, I'm glad I provided a negative answer for a few people to upvote, but even more people to downvote. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 22:58
  • @NickWestgate No matter how long ago, I to think it drives an important point home: History and recollection in itself is not well suited for this format nor healthy content anyway. Any history recording on RC.SE should always been a secondary/supporting point to facts about old machinery. There is nopreformulated yes or now but using a critical approach gauging question for pointing in a useful direction. Our task is to keep that balance working.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 23:42

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