I was looking through Area 51 recently and I discovered the Computing History proposal.

Well, not exactly... I already knew about it (and followed it) before this site launched. The topics are so similar that when this site launched, I thought it was the same one that I was following at Area 51.

Many of the questions might be on-topic here. We're still figuring out what exactly we want to have here, of course.

Here are some questions from the proposal:

  • What was the computing power used for the Apollo missions in comparison to modern day space exploration requirements?
  • Who developed the first USB storage?
  • Who created the Big O notation for algorithms?

At least one question there could be closed as duplicates of existing questions we have here:

What are we going to do?

I know that some of the questions there would be too recent to qualify as "retro", such as the one that asks what the first Stack Overflow question was (site launched in 2008).

But I think that there is significant overlap and something should be done. We don't have much activity, and it would be good if we got that traffic too. It could be bad if this site launched and we had to compete for the traffic.


See also:


3 Answers 3


What are we going to do?

Typically nothing. Proposals are only ideas, not sites; and that one doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The community-driven process of Area 51 has a vetting effect to determine if there is a broad interest in a site, and the (lack of) interest in that particular idea is pretty much playing itself out.

I will sometimes close a proposal pre-emptively, but given that the vast majority of questions seen there aren't a slam-dunk fit for a site about "hobbyists interested in restoring, preserving, and using the classic computer and gaming systems of yesteryear", it's not really an appropriate response to their exploration.

Top Example Questions:

  • What was the computing power used for the Apollo missions in comparison to modern day space exploration requirements?
  • Who developed the first USB storage?
  • What was the first program ever written ?
  • Who created the Big O notation for algorithms?

That's not to say if there was a sudden resurgence in support for that proposal, they would automatically become a site. The proposal would have to undergo a final review, but I don't think we are going to see it get that far. The underlying mechanisms to figure these things out — while still giving everyone a voice — seem to be intact.

  • 2
    Most of those could be reworded to fit here, e.g. "What computers were used for the Apollo missions (and how do they compare to those used today)?", "When was USB storage first developed?", "What was the first program ever written?".
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Jul 2, 2016 at 15:21
  • The question about computing power in Apollo compared to modern space exploration would probably be squarely on topic on Space Exploration. Of course, you might want to define what you mean by "computing power".
    – user
    Feb 27, 2017 at 10:35

As someone who is interested in both areas, I see a major difference.

Retrocomputing is about building/repairing/simulating older computers in the present. Computing History is about documenting the past. Some of the documenting the past aspect is useful in understanding the retrocomputers we are building/repairing/simulating, and some of the retrocomputing work will uncover bits of history, so there is a connection.

But, that connection is the same sort as between the professors in the History Department and the Engineers that build Trebuchets, I'm sure the history department doesn't want those engineers in their faculty, nor would most of the professors sitting in their office surrounded by books be interested in doing the engineering. Folks from either side might invite the others to give a guest talk, and there might be a few people with overlapping interests. But mostly the two groups are separate.

  • The 'separate' claim does not seem to be borne out by the actual participation in RCSE.
    – dave
    Jun 27, 2023 at 23:42

Well, the proposal has been closed due to inactivity. Nothing to worry about (if there was even any worry in the first place) anymore.

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