It's sad that old programming languages are not widely known enough on stack-exchange. So no one is able to answer these particular questions. I believe it would be a great feature for this site if we had "retro-coding" questions.


So I was wondering if its on topic on this site to ask about coding on retro-computers?


I think we should allow programming questions, if we are programming on something which is on-topic for this site. For example, 6502 is on-topic here, so 6502 assembler programming is. Same with PDP-11 or Z80. Not so with ARM7 or x86.

I suppose if your question is about the BASIC in your random home computer's ROM, it's on topic, but not if your question is that elementary and easily googlable. For example: "What is a for loop?" would be off-topic, but Why does this BASIC program keep restarting? is on-topic.

Programming in something like C could be on topic if:

  • it's specifically something about not-modern C, like "what is this weird pre-K&R syntax and what does it mean?" Or, "Why doesn't this old compiler accept this perfectly valid syntax?"

  • it's something specific to a retro system. So you just happen to be using C, but the question is really about how the Terak's framebuffer is laid out, or what escape codes the ADM-33 expects.

  • It's something we don't often [need to] think about today, but could rear its head on an exotic architecture. Something like "Why is a pointer to a byte a different size from a function pointer?" or "This array doesn't seem to occupy contiguous memory, what's up with that".

If your question is about VBA, then you can sod off, we're not interested. If your question is about Haskell or Python, then still it's off-topic but we'll be nicer about it.

If your question is really about implementation details of some programming language feature on some old platform, or the history of some language or language feature, then we'll welcome that kind of question.


Niche retro programming questions are on-topic, as per Are x86 programming questions on-topic?. Ordinary programming questions belong on Stack Overflow, and programming challenges belong on Code Golf.

I don't think we should allow programming questions, unless they require domain knowledge. So, debugging this timing loop is only on-topic if the timing loop is failing for a weird reason, like the graphics chip stealing RAM access, and not for mundane reasons like the program counter (instruction pointer) accidentally being used as a general-purpose register.

  • Depends on the type of program counter: A Z80 PC is fine, even if mis-used, ARM or x86 probably not. – tofro Aug 22 '19 at 17:41
  • @tofro I'm not sure that the issue I described is possible to accidentally create in Z80 assembly. – wizzwizz4 Aug 22 '19 at 18:20
  • PUSH <reg16>; RET; Does exactly what you're talking about – tofro Aug 23 '19 at 9:05
  • 2
    @tofro: x86 has been around since before Z80 so 8-bit and 16-bit x86 questions should be on-topic. – hippietrail Apr 26 '20 at 10:19

We have lots of specific "programming language" tags, and mostly-interesting questions to go with them, for example a spate of FORTRAN (not Fortran) questions from a few weeks back.

Where is the boundary between questions about programming versus questions about programming languages? If someone's trying to write new SNOBOL4 programs, say, why not discuss issues here? I'd like to think we can operate at a higher level than the usual Stack Overflow "write my code for me" level.

I don't much fancy anyone's chances at getting SNOBOL4 questions adequately addressed on Stack Overflow.

I'm a programmer, and I'm as interested in the programming languages of yesteryear as I am interested in the iron that they ran on.

Où sont les SNOBOLs d'antan? (apologies to Villon and Heller)

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