[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Trapped in a Terminal Maze

September 29th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

SWTPC Terminals - BYTE 1981Somebody call the fire marshal.
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There's nothing quite like the warm glow of a green screen terminal. I've never used a SWTPC terminal like those featured here, but I had a few DEC VT-125s with similar displays that I tinkered around with as a teenager. Now my terminal collection is larger, but there's just something about that green phosphor CRT — maybe it's a sentimental favorite of mine because I first learned to program BASIC on an Apple II+ with a green monochrome monitor. After that, amber- and white phosphor displays always seemed cold and impersonal by comparison.

[ From BYTE, July 1981 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Terminal Time! What's the best terminal you've ever used? For those of you who never had to use dedicated terminals, tell us your favorite terminal emulation software.

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13 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Trapped in a Terminal Maze”

  1. Jim Ulrich Says:

    Haven't done this in a while, but here it goes: Southwest Technical Products Corporation was actually one of the first suppliers of microcomputers to the public. They actually had some pretty cool products back in the day. Here are some links for those that are interested:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWTPC
    http://www.swtpc.com/

  2. Chrisbones Says:

    Peeped through your collection link. Surprised not to see a Vectrex on your lists? (sorry to go off topic, but had to comment)

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Chris,

    I have two Vectrex units. They are listed as "GCE Vectrex" under the "Video Game Consoles" section. All items are listed alphabetically by manufacturer name first.

  4. Layne Says:

    The high school I went to (88 to 90) was on the campus of a college. So, we had access to their VAX system. Most of the terminals were VT220′s (I think) — black & white, reminded me of TRS-80′s, but we had some GiGi's that no one really liked because they didn't know what to do with them…..I could at least make them show colors. Too bad I didn't have a better idea of what they were capable of…..I would have been extremely cool (well, cool in a nerd crowd), then.

    Layne

    http://www.binarydinosaurs.co.uk/Museum/Digital/gigi/index.php

  5. Ben Says:

    I think the green/amber thing does depend on what you spent most of your "formative" time on. I spent a fair amount of time staring at green Apple IIE screens, but most of my "hard" work was behind the amber glow of a PC/XT clone- which I recently fired up after a long hibernation, and found the display to be oddly comforting. A simpler time, to be sure.
    And speaking of that computer, it's also what I spent a lot of time in my favorite terminal emulation SW- Procomm Plus 2.whatever. Tried many other ones, but I always came back to Procomm. I've been at a few terminals, too, but not enough to call a "favorite". Most were no-name dumb terminals, except for a few HPs.

  6. Layne Says:

    Once I found it, my preference was always Telix. I used Procomm, but I liked Telix a lot better.

    http://www.dmine.com/bbscorner/connected.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telix

    And my first days with a terminal was shades of green…..my parents bought it with my Commodore 64. And let me tell you, it wasn't easy playing some of those games without color. I eventually plugged it up to a black and white TV (and then got smart and split the signal for "dual" screen). That helped, but I didn't know that the background was actually blue until a couple of years later…..but I hated it so much that I don't feel nostalgic about a green screen.

    Layne

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    I used PCPLUS (Procom Plus) quite a bit in my early BBS days, then switched to Telix as well, Layne, which seemed to be a PC Plus clone. The company behind Telix was actually located nearby in Cary, NC, although I didn't know that until years later.

    I have a friend who swore by Telemate (another MS-DOS terminal emulator). I used it recently and it really is good. Man, I didn't know what I was missing.

  8. Chrisbones Says:

    Oops! Missed that. Forgot the GCE part. Was scanning the list for VECT…
    Glad to hear it anyway. Oh and I never used a terminal but loved the old Green screen from the Apple II way back in my Elementary school days. That was my first time on an Apple and I've owned multiple Macs ever since. There I go, off topic again. My bad.

  9. Geoff V. Says:

    Back in '91 my mom worked at a local college. My brother and I had a favorite game when she brought us into work; one of us would distract her while the other would type "dirty words" onto her terminal computer. An auto response would say something like "watch it" or “inappropriate office language” if the word was dirty enough. Good Times…

  10. Richard Says:

    I collect serial terminals and stuff relating to computer graphics.

    My favorite terminal? Gee, its so hard to say, having used a number of them over the years. I always thought the HP262x series had the best onscreen font. It was nice and smooth and the descenders actually descended. For a printing terminal, I'd go with the LA-36/LA-120 for ruggedness and with the TI Silent 700 series for quietness and portability. Once we were moving an LA-36 and it rolled down a flight of concrete steps. Except for some dents in the plastic outer skins, it was fine. Those things are built like tanks. For keyboard tacility, I always liked the keyboards on the NCD 17 X terminals. There was something about the nice springiness of the feel of the keys. For graphics, it has got to be the Tektronix line of terminals, although the HP2648 did give them a run for their money. The HP 262x series had a graphics capable entry, but I've never seen one in person.

  11. GReg Nagy Says:

    Back in college during the early 90s, we had IBM 3178/9s and HDS 100/200 terminals, depending on your host preference, but the best terminals were the surplused Telray T10s. White text, weird "bell", keyclick option, big but light detached keyboard, and strong as heck. When moving out of an off campus apt, one of my roommates used my T10 as a doorstop for the elevator. The door repeatedly slammed into the T10, but when fired up later, never missed a beat. I miss that beast.

  12. Benj Edwards Says:

    Awesome stories, all around. And I'm glad to see that someone collects serial terminals, Richard. I love them myself.

  13. Cody Says:

    "If I keep typing, maybe they'll go away."

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