Not long ago a question about how CRTs are installed in TV sets slipped thru without being marked as OT. It took just tree days for the next question about TV signal interpretation. Where the first in theory still have an effect on images displayed, the new one is in all parts unrelated. In fact, the OP seams to be quite aware about the dubious claim for OT and argues accordingly by citing precedence.

So the question is:

Should RC.SE move toward being a generic site for Retro eleCtronics?

It may be useful to really take a look at the question asked. Since it's safe to assume that any rightful designed video output will be according to its specs, the topic is strictly about configuration of a receiving TV set, not the computer or any part thereof. As a result it's about the TVs electronics and setup. In my book not in any way computing related.

On a more general note, This is not about a question being a good, interesting or intriguing one. OT-questions can still be on the cool side - much the one about intrinsic workings of CRTs asked with the 'Parallelogram' one is. Important knowledge about the fine details of CRTs, just not computing related.

  • There also seem to be a few how to questions about wiring up Z80 chips, that would be better off elsewhere. Mar 31, 2019 at 16:48
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    @MarkWilliams Well, basically yes. Then again, the ones I remember where tied to some intrinsic workings, thus somewhat borderline. But I agree, we meed to be vigilant.
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 31, 2019 at 17:08
  • This seems to be more electronics than computing: retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/2504/… Mar 31, 2019 at 20:35
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    @MarkWilliams Agreed, it's about very basic operations of a CPU, and thus more related to basic knowledge about it, than to anything specific retro. On the other hand, 'naked' CPUs in itself are vanishing. I have a hard time to name any new processor device within the last 20+ years which isn't some kind of SoC or a microcontroler. Classic CPU-chip and support-chip families are almost gone.
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 31, 2019 at 21:09
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    @MarkWilliams I absolutely see no point why "How to wire a Z80" could be off-topic. A Z80 is definitely related to computing and it is definitely retro. If someone wants to build a Z80 computer today, I see no other place to ask on SE.
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2019 at 5:18
  • @tofro But it's a new project, and many of the questions Mark points to are rather debugging and basic electronics than really retro related. Just because someone learns driving on a Moris Minor doesn't make him a vintage car enthusiast, and his questions will be about driving, not the car. Having them framed in the context of a Moris Minor doesn't change this. Please note, that I did answer several such questions in a positive manner, as I'm supportive of such endeavour, but when it comes to a logic assessment for RC.SE, they are more often than not unfit.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 9:43
  • @raffzahn We will need to agree to disagree. Whatever you do with a Z80 (solder it onto a historic ZX Spectrum board or your newly made self-designed PCB from China) falls under "retro" for me - As long as you don't ask how to solder.
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2019 at 9:59
  • @tofro you know that there are modern devices still with Z80 cores? But serious, I think your 'not asking for soldering' is the cue here for a consent definition, as it is quite similar to 'not asking why do address lines blink' as it's, like soldering basic knowledge to be assumed - or gathered form digital electronic courses/sites. it's nothing retro specific.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 10:57
  • @Raffzahn Would you consider projects like the RC2014 (note the acronym) on-topic, then? There's no single piece of historic hardware or software in there.
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2019 at 11:31
  • @tofro yes, as general guideline, yes. It is close to being borderline, as it isn't truly a classic machine, but it upholds the spirit and crossections with historic machines are large. To me it falls in the same category as new hardware for old computers. Now, before you get too cheerful, due it's borderline nature, not any question about the RC2014 would be automatic on topic. But in my book they got a good chance to be.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 11:53
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    And this is where we disagree - IMHO, something along the lines of RC2014 is centerline on-topic
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2019 at 12:28
  • @tofro Somehow I get the feeling that you're intentionally try avoid finding common ground. This is not about some red bus - or is it? RC.SE is not a service forum for new computers of whatever kind - beside the RC2014 got their own anyway. You may want to reread the core definition for RC.SE: "Retrocomputing involves the restoration, preservation, history and maintenance of computer and gaming systems of yesteryear." Do you see the RC2014 tick any of these boxes? In fact, it meets in full the criteria for the very first exclusion point.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 12:48
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    When I say I'd disagree in one point of many, that means we can still be in agreement in a lot of others ;) . I'm just taking the liberty to have an opinion. Another one where I don't agree: "This is information that can be obtained from someplace else" is not a good one to exclude a question. And if RC2014 is off-topic for some reason, fine with me - this is simply something that needs to be commonly agreed (not only between you and me). Unfortunately, it seems as we are discussing this between the two of us only...
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:05
  • Oh, no doubt, we all have different opinions and thats ok. In a targeted discussion, as this is, I just expect everyone to move toward a common solution. Just leaning back and using 'opinion' as an exit while insisting that thisn opinion is the only valid result isn't. I guess it's agreeable that 'open for everything' isn't a practical definition for whats on- or of-topic. So, where is your line here? Incude anything with the label 'Retro' like someone slapping a Commodore sticker on a 486, or an Atari one atop some ARM based toy?
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:33
  • Now, regarding the participation RC is like any other place, we go 80% lurkers, 15% commenting sometimes and 5% active solving questions. This discusion has at least been started by a third party, so it's not just the two of us :)) As much as I hate it, but it's the few again setitng the guidelines. So far your 'open for everything' approach seams to be a minority position - convince me (us) that it isn't as bad as it sounds, that there is a (somewhat) clear set of guidelines to be used and you'll get all my support to integrate it.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:35

7 Answers 7


How televisions display pictures is off-topic on this site. I think we would all agree.

The question about were there any computers not restricted to a small box is borderline. It is about the usage of the TV scan lines by a computer's video output. It is not about the TV itself.

Several computers did restrict the usage of the scan area due to a number of restrictions of the computer's own video output circuitry and/or the video memory limitations.

However, the question is also borderline because it could be construed as a list question. These are off-topic.

The question, at the time of writing, has 3 close votes. I'm happy to abstain and let the community decide.


My opinion is that the site should related to computers, including games consoles, home computers, and business / academic computers of different sizes that were manufactured in the past. This should obviously include all the circuitry included in and with such machines (e.g. power supplies are on topic). However I am against the idea of 'retro components'. Just because a component - a Z80, a memory chip or a type of transistor was used in a 'retro computer', does not make any question about such a component on-topic in any other scope. To clarify: questions about CRT functions, wiring up Z80 chips and advice on present-day electronic projects should all be off-topic.


Not long ago a question about how CRTs are installed in TV sets slipped thru without being marked as OT

So what? Did it cause:

  1. on-topic questions to be served with less answers?
  2. disruption of the servers?
  3. worldwide nuclear meltdown?

No? Then who cares? Fix problems when they're actually problems.

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    You mean, we should not care is questions are about retro computing at all ... or at least not as long as it doesn't cause a black hole eating up this planet? Also, picking only the half of a point which is used as an introduction, and answer taht isn somewhat disputable, isn't it? I had expect to get answers targeting the issues.
    – Raffzahn
    May 8, 2019 at 14:59
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    What, precisely, is the problem you are trying to solve? OT questions are not, in of themselves, a problem. They may become a problem, but the level we are seeing now is not even close. May 8, 2019 at 15:06
  • We're trying to avoid them becoming a problem and also make sure that questions go to their best possible home. In this case, it's pretty clear to me that this should be on [EE StackExcahange][electronics.stackexchange.com), which is where the answer that prompted the question lives anyway.
    – cjs
    Jul 24, 2019 at 6:00

I don't particularly mind if we add CRTs to the site's scope (questions about the display are important to understand how CRT-based video display systems functioned), but we'd have to come up with a better definition of "electronics" if we want to extend the scope to include them.

I can't think of a definition of "electronics" that wouldn't cause scope creep into Electronics territory, so I don't think we should do that.

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    I would belive, that when it comes to electronic questions on RC.SE, they should be confined to dedicated examples of existing circuitry of an existing computer with the intention to understand its workings. Like asking for how Apple II Video is created.
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 31, 2019 at 13:59
  • @Raffzahn Those are already on-topic, though. I honestly don't think we should broaden the scope; I agree with Chenmunka.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Mar 31, 2019 at 14:01
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    Err... that's exactly the point I tried to make - put it on my bad English if it didn't come over. Nonetheless it wouldn't damage to include that wording, wouldn't it?
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 31, 2019 at 14:22
  • @Raffzahn No, it wouldn't. Care to suggest an edit to the on-topic page?
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Mar 31, 2019 at 15:02
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    Meanwhile, questions about old and ancient electronics are definitely on-topic over at EE.SE.
    – pipe
    May 11, 2019 at 14:31

Having waited a day or so, here's my opinion:

In general questions about real computing devices are on topic, even if they go astray. This is not.

This includes software and electronics as well. Some may even pass the realm of pure computing if they are rooted in existing machines/developments. Still, they need to be confined to dedicated examples of existing circuitry of an existing computer with the intention to understand its workings. Like asking for how Apple II Video is created. In case of such real world based questions I have no problem in following them way outside the clear area of computing.

Rwallace's question are a good example here. He's beating the bush around resolution, computers and TV for quite some time (search resolution). While some of his questions are quite borderline, he usually comes from a real world implementation and wants to learn about it's implications in relation to usage and so on. Even thru I ... well, lets say I didn't fall in love with some, and some being quite over the border, it was usually clear where he's coming from and what the gain in answering would be.

Sidenote (somewhat related):

Rather theoretical questions (was there, could there, what would be if) in contrast must be not only OT because of their likelyness to attract lists and even more vague, non helpful answers, but more so when not strictly ties to computing issues in general and historic ones in particular. For the general there is Stack Overflow and for a-historic, there are quite some alternate history sites around the web.


My suggestion is: if the question

  1. falls in "retro electronics" category
  2. but not in "retro computer" category
  3. and is on the border of the two

Then we should accept it, if it is off-topic on the Electronics SE. My suggestion is to understand the topicality of the Electronics SE, and tune our rules to that.

My arguments:

  1. They are a quite restrictive site. The off-topic closed content/users what they don't need, might be an useful content/user source for us.
  2. Making them off-topic on both sites would create a "blink spot", i.e. an interesting/important topic what is off-topic everywhere on the SE.
  • While this sounds great at first, it means in the end that RC.SE should be the orphanage for anything that doesn't fit on Electronics.SE - and that's most definitly not a good idea. The underlaying problem is that we can (and should) not define our scope in relation to other sites. Even less acting as Restmüll container.
    – Raffzahn
    Jul 24, 2019 at 7:54
  • @Raffzahn Not anything, only the border cases. Questions posted on the RC.SE, for example, about recent FPGA programming, would be off-topic obviously also here. It is not Restmüll (wastebasket), it would be mining. Content/user mining. Well... maybe fishing. They don't want it on various reasons, but we know that it is useful, so we get it, that is the logic. It clearly does not mean that we would want their Restmüll. We want the diamonds what they've thrown out in it.
    – peterh
    Jul 24, 2019 at 8:02
  • @Raffzahn Obviously it is not about a rule that "if X is offtopic on the electronics SE, then you can post it here", that would be surreal. The suggestion is about an independent definition, as you say - only we could formulate it to get the "blind spot" between us.
    – peterh
    Jul 24, 2019 at 8:05
  • (Restmüll means not 'wast basket' but 'remaining garbage' - as in useless stuff with no other purpose). Also, electronics aren't a gerneral topic her, even when somehow related to computers. Retro computing is .. well .. about computing. Last but quite important, 'fishing for users' has always been a bad tactic. I don't think we have any reason to be so desperate.
    – Raffzahn
    Jul 24, 2019 at 8:11
  • @Raffzahn There is nothing "desperate" in it. They don't want something what is useful for us, so we get it. I can't see any bad in it, particularly for us.
    – peterh
    Jul 24, 2019 at 8:15
  • It's bad when seen from that position. If something useful for here, than it fits anyway, no matter if it's rejected by another site or not. Similar, if it's not fitting, then as well any it doesn't matter how it fits or not on other sites. Ergo, the whole notion about fittin or not on other sites is unrelated to being OT here.
    – Raffzahn
    Jul 24, 2019 at 9:05
  • @Raffzahn I agree that the site rules should not include any reference to other sites (they shold be self-contained). But, while we are determining these rules, I think we follow a better strategy, if we consider the rules of other sites, and the possible direct or indirect interactions with them, as if we ignore them et al. It is because probably we want to make the site successful, and many of the OPs obviously chooses between the different sites, where to go.
    – peterh
    Jul 24, 2019 at 9:21
  • @Raffzahn Obviously it doesn't mean that we should allow anything only because others don't. It only means that if we see something what is 1) free for us and 2) useful for us, we should get it.
    – peterh
    Jul 24, 2019 at 9:22

I'm not sure it's a big problem.

CRTs are as tangential to computers as power supplies really. So that the question, "When did the connectors on the PSU change?" and "When did computers start accepting both 110V and 230V?" are off-topic.

And they haven't been bothering us, not really.

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