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Six of the Best Looking Terminals from Yesteryear

December 13th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in terminal emulation

Just because yesterdays computing heavy weights didn’t conform to apples shiny black minimalist aesthetic doesn’t mean they couldn’t be beautiful in their right, or at least interesting. Lets take a quick tour through some of my favorites.

1. The DEC VT05

The VT05 is a very early terminal from Digital Equipment Corp, dating from the early 1970′s. Apart from the great styling on this device the thing that really sticks out is the sheer scale. It was 19″/48cm wide, 12″/30cm high and 30″/76cm deep, weighing in at a mere 55 pounds (25 kilograms)!
Here’s a whole set of pictures (http://hummingbirdsales.com/VT05.html) from someone offering a vt05 for sale. Asking price $3600(!)

2. The DEC VT100

After a severe case of the uglies with the vt52 DEC brought out the VT100,  one of the most successful terminals of all time and in my opinion a nice looking piece of tech.

DEC VT100 terminal

DEC VT100 terminal

3. The Tektronix 4010

Meet the Tektronix 4010. These terminals were unique in a couple of ways – first off they were graphics terminals and displayed vector based graphics, secondly they used the CRT as data storage (also known as Direct View Bistable Storage Tube (DVBST) , see this wikipedia article for more detail). In the early seventies when these terminals were first released this was a cost effective way of storing data as RAM was prohibitively expensive. The pedestal contains the power supply and associated circuitry.

A very similar but slightly later model 4014. Photo by Jim Rees

A very similar but slightly later model 4014. Photo by Jim Rees

More pictures at http://www.selectric.org/tek4010/index.html

4. The HP 266x

Before brushed aluminum Airbooks, before colorful iMacs, before even the endless dull grey boxes of the 80′s and 90′s  – there was Brown…and it was good.
The Hewlett Packard 262x series of terminals were designed for use with HP’s 3000 series mainframes, according to this site (http://www.hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?hw=242), they were nicknamed the ‘ET Head’ terminals. The keyboards (not pictured) were colored in several shades of brown.

Hewlett Packard Terminal

Hewlett Packard Terminal

They were replaced by the dull (but very successful) 2392A terminal a couple of years later.

5. Data General Dasher 200

Sporting smooth curves and a color scheme that looks like it would have worked well with Norton/Midnight commander the dasher 200 was Data Generals early terminal for it’s range of mini systems.

data general dasher 200 photo from http://phasorburn.com/index.php/archive/by-the-soft-green-light/

data general dasher 200

6. The Lear Siegler ADM-3A

My personal favorite and in my opinion, shoe in for the most stylish dumb terminal there ever was, goes to the Lear Siegler ADM-3A. Integrating both the CRT display screen and the keyboard into one molded plastic shell the ADM-3A still looks great xx years later. It’s a wonder someone hasn’t modded one these and stuffed a modern system or games console inside.

Other ADM-Xs retained similar styling and the Televideo 910 bears more than a passing resemblance. Keen eyed readers will see ADM-3A in the background of the VT-05 video.

Adm3a - Image from Chris Jacobs collection


October 18th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in terminal emulation

hyperterminalHyperterminal is perhaps the terminal emulation software that is most familiar to users of Microsoft operating systems. Beginning with Windows 95 Hyperterminal was distributed with each and every copy of Microsoft Windows up until Windows Vista, when Microsoft discontinued bundling it with their family of operating systems.

Hyperterminal was produced by Hilgraeve Inc, a software developer based in Detroit and while the program’s functionality was very limited compared to commercial competitors (and even some freeware alternatives) a ‘pro’ version was offered to users looking for something a little extra.

So, what did Hyperterminal do?

Hyperterminal was essentially a telnet client supporting VT52/100, ANSI and various videotext variants such as Minitel and Viewdata. It was able to handle TCP/IP or serial/modem connections and was also touted as being a tool for connecting to BBSs. Various types of file transfer, mostly along the lines of Kermit/xModem/zModem and so on, were supported. Microsoft even suggested using Hyperterminal to check and troubleshoot your modem.

Where can I download a copy of Hyperterminal?

Google is your friend. A couple of sites are still hosting versions of Hyperterminal for download, but I can’t vouch for them, so search at your own risk.

On the other hand there are a couple of freeware alternatives to Hyperterminal including the open source tera term and putty, both for Windows based operating systems. For other operating systems or for commercial equivalents (which tend to be far more comprehensive and complete in their implementation, which is handy if your looking for anything more complicated than a straight ssh/vt100 implementation) you might want to look through the links in the right hand column.

Computerization and Financial systems

August 24th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in Tandem, terminal emulation
Photo by Roland Tanglao under CC attribution license : http://www.flickr.com/photos/roland/45361875/

Automatic Teller Machine

Outside of military, government and research usage, some of the world earliest users of large scale computers were the financial and banking sectors of the Western World. The beginnings of computerization in the financial industry can be traced back the early 1950’s and in particular to the Bank of America’s sponsorship of the ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) project at the Stanford Research Institute. Designed to automated the banks checking account systems that project was revolutionary and delivered the Bank of America a decisive edge over it’s competitors by streamlining the processing of the many thousands of customer checks it handled on a daily basis. More »

The Rise and Fall of Prime Computer

August 17th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in terminal emulation

Prime is a good example of the innovation and excitement that was around in the early days of the computing industry and the fact that it was possible at that time for a small number of dedicated people to create a computer system that could compete. More »


July 14th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in VT/DEC, terminal emulation

The most successful terminal ever? Maybe, maybe not, but it definitely set the standard for all other terminals and formed the basis for many other emulations.
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The IBM 5250 terminal

June 15th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in 5250, terminal emulation

The IBM 5250 Display stations are a long lived, popular family of terminals originally produced by IBM as a component of their System/3 computer in 1969. Designed specifically for small businesses the midrange System/3 offered a cheaper alternative to the larger, more expensive systems colloquially referred to as ‘Big Iron‘ , which were priced out of the reach or smaller organizations.

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Video: Prime, Step into the 80′s!

June 1st, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in terminal emulation

The story of Prime computers is an interesting one, the greatly abridged version of which is that they were a large manufacturer of minicomputers in the 1970′s and 80′s who, after a lengthy decline, bowed out of the industry in the  quite unexpectedly. They left behind many customers who’d bought into their line of equipment with huge investments in Prime technology and sadly added weight to the old industry adage, ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’.

Like many manufacturers of that era they also produced several models of proprietary terminals, such as the PT250, which is still supported by the occasional terminal emulator today…but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is a series of great TV spots from the early 80′s staring the Tom Baker version of Doctor Who!

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Wyse terminals

May 24th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in terminal emulation
Wyse 50 terminal

Wyse 50 terminal

If you had anything to do with a terminal based computing in the 1980′s then no doubt than name Wyse would be very familiar to you. Founded in the early 80′s in in San Jose, California Wyse achieved it’s early fame as a manufacturer of a very successful line of character based terminals terminals. A key feature of the Wyse range of terminals was the ability to adopt numerous ‘personalities’ of other terminals in addition to their own native modes. Wyse terminals sold very well and soon became the terminal of choice for the reseller community largely due to the resellers’ ability to source terminals from the one supplier and cater for the majority of host systems. As the list below shows, the range of competitor terminals that the Wyse products were able to emulate was extensive:

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Video: The IRMA board

April 21st, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in 3270
IRMA board

IRMA board, judging by the Attachmate logo and the PCI interface, mid 90's vintage.

The IRMA board got a mention in my 3270 post last week and low and behold I’ve just stumbled across an interview with one of the former senior executives at Digital Communications Associates (DCA), the company behind the IRMA board. The interview touches on the product itself, the company’s rise and fall and the history of tech companies in that region during the 80′s. The interview was conducted by techdrawl.com, a site the focuses on all things tech from the south…unfortunately that particular page is coming up 404 just now,  however the interview is hosted on vimeo and survives (below).

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The IBM 3270 terminal

April 21st, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in 3270

The IBM 3270 Information Display System (and related terminals) was one of the most successful and popular terminals ever made.

The IBM System 360/25

The IBM System 360/25

First announced by IBM in 1971 it could be connected to the company’s System/370 or System/360 Model 25  mainframe. The 3270 became extremely popular during the 1970’s and later on with the release of the IBM 3090 mainframe in 1985.

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