Open source, stand alone, ASCII terminal project

Bob Armstrong bob at
Mon Dec 1 15:19:35 CST 2008

  I and a couple of other people thought it would be fun to build our own
stand alone video terminal.  The prototype is a 3x5" PCB that is completely
self contained - all you need to connect is a VGA monitor, a PS/2 keyboard,
12V power, and a RS-232 connection to a host computer of your choice.  The
idea is that you could easily stick one inside the case of an old VGA
add a keyboard, and then have an ASCII terminal.  No PC required :-)

  I did the hardware design and PC boards, and James Markevitch did the
share of the firmware, with help from David Betz, Ethan Dicks and Dave
The firmware is all open source, GPL licensed, and is managed as a Source
Forge project.  The microprocessors (yes, there are two used) are 8051 cores
and the firmware for both is written mostly in C using the SDCC compiler.
SDCC and the other development tools we're using are all FREE, mostly open
source, and the primary MCU can be in system programmed using a regular PC
and an ordinary serial connection.  No expensive development tools or
hardware programmers are needed.

  Enough firmware finished now to be a functional VT220 clone - it can run
and vi already - but there's still lots to be done. We'd like to find a
more people to join the development team and help us finish off version 1.
particular, some of the major things that still need doing include -

  Fonts (a VT220 has a surprisingly large number of DEC specific fonts)
  Serial EEPROM drivers for saving setup and configuration data
  Documentation, users manual and web pages (on SourceForge)
  and of course testing

  Some of the things we're thinking about working on after V1 is finished -

  Emulating other ASCII terminals (ADM, TeleVideo, Wyse, maybe more)
  Adding graphics (Tek 4006/4010/4014 emulation, ReGIS, maybe more)

  If you're interested, I have two more of the prototype PC boards that I
can sell.  And if you really want, you can always wire wrap your own without
a PC board - the schematics are available as part of the project
email me and let me know if you are interested in working on the project.

  Right now I'd prefer that the PC boards go to people who have the time to
actually help out with the project in the short term, so if so if you'd just
like to have one of the terminals but don't have time to help then please
stand by.  There'll be another announcement when we have one ready for


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