Clarification: This is about homework questions, i.e. Verbatim taken form the assignment/text book and moved into RC to let others do the work. Not about specific questions asked to do a homework.

This question may sound weired at first, since RC is, unlike other SE areas, not realy tied to classic education - and even a bit of esoteric. But I can see at least two sources:

1) There are many school/univertity courses still based (in part) on classic 8 bit systems used to teach about very basic concepts. Students may be tempted to ask on RC instead of EE.

2) Classic systems are increaasingly becoming part of the curiculum for conservators and historians. While this may produce a lot of valid questions, simple 'do my homework' might as well come up.

The whole topic came to my attention when a question was asked, which not only was wrong on RC, because of it's clear EE-topic, but also used a language that sounded like a 100% rip-off from text books and assignment texts.

In a follow up discusion Wizzwizz4 pointed to a related question on Physics.Meta, that seams like an interesting read. I also browsed several other sites. Most do not have explicit rules regarding homework. A few target this (like this question on Math), but usually shun direct support.

Rules on Physics seam to be

  • Homework questions include assignments, self studdy problems and puzzles as well.
  • No vague questions.
  • It should be made in a way that is helpful for future readers.
  • It should not ask for a simple solution.
  • It should seek to understand the underlaying principle and/or methology.
  • Physics Stack Exchange is not primarily a homework help site
  • It's a place to get specific conceptual physics questions answered
  • They even added a homework-and-exercises tag.

Of course, a solution based site like Physics is quite different from RC, still I belive the basic idea can be applied to RC as well.

Handling this also opens other questions like how to detect such questions (if not marked by a tag). Not always is the wording as obvius.

Standard disclaimer: I will not mark any answer as 'the Answer' as meta is about opinion, not true or false. Eventually when there are more answers (hopefuly), comments and cosiderable up and down vote the consent will be clear.

3 Answers 3


I've got an opinion about this so I may as well share.

Whether or not a question is for homework is exactly as irrelevant as whether or not a question is for a hobby project. We're here to ask questions about retrocomputing (whatever that means), regardless of the personal motivation behind the posting of the question.

Put another way: I asked a question C64 graphics not long ago. It's on topic because it's about graphics on the Commodore 64. It happens to be because I'm making a video game as a hobby. Suppose that game was part of my coursework, nobody should really care.

  • Erm, I feel there's a missunderstanding. Asking a specific question that comes up doing homework (or whatsoever) isn't ment her (and perfectly good for RC). It's about dumping text book (or assignment) questions into RC o have others do the homework. I added a clarification to above question.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 14:01

I'm the author of the only answer to the question that started this topic. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Under normal circumstances, a good answer should directly address the given question. However, that question had several reasons to not directly answer the question.

  2. There definitely are students who ask homework questions on SE sites. I respect the belief that many users felt that this was a homework question, and that nothing will be learned by simply giving them an answer. Personally, I am willing to take the asker's word that it wasn't a homework question; but even then, it's the type of question that could be used in the future as such. Therefore, I was careful not to simply give away the answer.

  3. Computing history seems like a wierd topic for a homework assignment. It would seem to me that "how could this be used" has more educational value than "how was this used". I'm not saying such homework questions are impossible, just unusual.

  4. My biggest concern about that question was that it was off-topic. It referred to electrical aspects, instead of historical aspects.

  5. Despite that, I would expect someone in the future would search for information about the historical aspects. (SE sites often show up high on search engine results.) To help someone looking for the historical aspects, I provided a narrow, retrocomputing-related answer, and then referred the asker to a more appropriate forum.

    I'll keep this answer relevant to retrocomputing. The remaining aspects of your question belong in Electronics.SE.

    My answer got some upvotes, so it appears that some users approved of my approach.

  6. I have an answer already written in case it is posted to Electronics.SE:

    I'm going to list differences between the chips, but leave it up to you to research which chip is which. Even if it's not a homework question for you, it could be for someone else.

    • One is a microcontroller, meaning it includes ROM, RAM, and peripherals on the chip; you can create a working system with a few passive components, without a need for other ICs. The other is a microprocessor, meaning you have to add ROM, RAM, peripherals, and address decoding with external chips in order to create a working system.
    • One can be powered by a single +5V supply. The other also needs -5V and +12V.

    ...and so on. (The actual answer has 15 entries, and I planned to make it a community wiki.) You can see that someone would need to do some research to get an acceptable homework answer. So far, the question has not appeared on Electronics.SE.

Does this seem like a reasonable approach to answering possible homework questions? How could I have done better?

  • Thanks for writing that down. There's nothing you could have done better. I do apreciate the answer you have given to that question, as it nails the issues.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 20:12
  • "Computing history seems like a wierd topic for a homework assignment" ... you say that, but history of computing is a subject that is taught in some courses (although having just checked, it turns out my old university is no longer offering it, which is disappointing, even if the lecturer who taught the course in my day is still there, and has even produced this EDSAC emulator since I left).
    – Jules
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 21:17

By default I would considere them off-topic.

At the core this is as with every question - if they are about a sufficient specific topic, and this topic is related to RC, ad it is formulated in a way to be useful to others, then I'd considere it always as on-topic.

Otherwise, if it is just a dump of unspecific parts and assumptions, if it covers a way to broad area or if it just asks for opinion, then it's as off-topic as it can get - like always.

  • In general, I agree with you (see my item #3). However, suppose there is a relevant RC question, a student searches online, and the information needed is missing or incomplete. If this student's question demonstrates they've made an effort to research the answer, I'd say it's on-topic. I think that's what you're trying to say in your 2nd paragraph.
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 20:33

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