Humpty Dumpty

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at
Thu Feb 8 14:42:55 CST 2007

On 2/8/07, Richard <legalize at> wrote:
> In article <f4eb766f0702081150s67fda50ak573058800e1ef27b at>,
>     "Ethan Dicks" <ethan.dicks at>  writes:
> > 4.  I have a collection of terminals, 90% of which are various DEC
> > models (VT-50 through about VT-320), but a couple of Tektronix, couple
> > of Planar, Heathkit, CiTOH, etc.
> Pictures? Web site?

Unfortunately, no.  I have few photos of my gear, mostly because I
want the photos to look nice and I don't have decent lighting, etc.

>  I intend to do a full online history of terminals
> at some point; something like but just for terminals

Nice.  I'd enjoy contributing at some point.

> have you ever browsed the TERMCAP stuff?

Yes.  Yes, I have, when I was using UNIX and VMS everyday from a VT100
(c. 1985-1993).   I ported a few programs from UNIX to VMS from, and got entangled in a curses-infested nightmare.

> I've not heard of Planar before, so I'd like to hear about that one.

They are still around.  They now make VGA and DVI LCD panels, but at
one point, they made terminals and PCs.  I have a Planar wall-mount
486 (LCD, 2.5" disk, external CD-ROM...)  and couple Planar ELT-320s.
The ELT-320s are VT320 compatible with 9" electro-luminescent screens,
thus "ELT-320".  They run on +12VDC (external power brick) and have
plugs for your choice of PC/AT keyboard or DEC LK201, and have MMJ
serial plus DE-9.  Very handy, and, with a 9" flat screen, very
portable.  One has a small pedestal for desk use, the other is in a
wall-mount case, that resembles a first aid kit on a factory floor.

> I don't think Tektronix ever made a terminal that wasn't graphics
> capable :-) and when they went to raster displays from storage scopes,
> I believe they were all color capable.  I have a 4010, a 4014 and
> several 4105s and 4205s.

Hmm... 4105 or 4205 rings a bell.

> The 340s occasionally appear on ebay, but they generally sell for
> around $350, so I haven't purchased one yet.

Me, neither.

> > I agree - they are rare.  Rarer are the applications to drive them.
> Oh, I don't know of any extant applications that still care about
> these kinds of terminals unless we're talking about something as
> mundane as unix plot.

That _still_ care?  Almost none.  I more meant that back in the day,
there were lots and lots of games and business applications that were
coded for curses or raw VT-100 escape sequences, etc., and far fewer
that knew about graphics command sets.  The largest body of code I've
run across that is expecting a graphics terminal is, as I said, a
collection of programs under TOPS-20 for the GIGI.

>From what I remember, graphical workstation prices started falling in
the late 1980s at the same time color graphics terminals were becoming
more common.  I think that, in the DEC world, at least, folks
transitioned from VT100s/VT220s/etc. to PCs or workstations, not color
graphics terminals.  Mono text terminals continued to have a niche,
since there was never a bottom-line justification to migrate to color,
and especially not to color graphics.

>  (Although linux seems to have discarded all
> that terminal functionality that was in the original plot series of
> programs and just reduced it to Tektronix 4010.)

Yeah... in general, Linux seems to be far less terminal friendly than
it was 10 years ago.

> However, since the escape codes are documented in the user manuals
> and the manuals seem to have survived fairly well for most models, I
> am intending to write code that will put them through their paces via
> an ordinary PC.

True enough - at least in the case of DEC-compatible and
Tek-compatible, the command sets are well known, as are the warts with
each terminal model (cf vttest).

> > >  Terminals that have 3D graphics builtin are even scarcer than that.
> >
> > Indeed.  I don't know if I've ever seen one.
> There are the E&S terminals and the other "CAD terminal" vendors of
> the 80s.  SGI's first product was such a terminal, before they started
> doing workstations in their second generation product line.

Makes sense.  That wasn't a world I got to play in much.


More information about the cctech mailing list