Retro Scan of the Week: GTE ActionStation XT300

February 25th, 2007 by Benj Edwards

GTE XT300 TerminalHaven’t you always wanted your very own personal desktop information terminal? With a 9″ monochrome monitor? That requires a $15-an-hour text-only information service to use to its fullest? For the same price as a full-fledged PC? Neither did anybody else, and that’s why it was on clearance in 1986.

The XT300 ActionStation came with “$15.00 of free usage” for CompuServe, which, according to the catalog, “will vary between 1 and 2 hours” of connect time “depending on when it’s used.” This makes the old “100 Hours Free!” AOL offer look like a bargain!

Here’s some more info on the GTE XT300, from Communication News, February 1985:

GTE’s XT300 ActionStation combines an ASCII terminal with build-in modem and nine-inch high-resolution screen with a full-feature electronic telephone, speaker phone and large-capacity speed dialer. The ActionStation’s two-line capability allows simultaneously voice and data transmission, and the unit provides access to a wide range of data transmission and retrieval services, including GTE’s Telemail electronic mail service and online public data-base services. A personal directory permits storage of 50 names and telephone numbers, and eight computer sign-on procedures. It also stores 12 frequently used commands, report names and data file names of up to 36 characters.

[ Scanned from a COMB Catalog, ca. 1986 ]

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11 Responses to “Retro Scan of the Week: GTE ActionStation XT300”

  1. Mark Says:

    wow! the only difference between this and AOL, is that the xt300 is far more reliable!

  2. KitsuneDarkStalker Says:

    What OS did this use?

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Like most “smart terminals,” it had a custom OS programmed into ROM that contained the terminal program, a settings screen or two, and some sort of dialing directory that could store regularly used phone phone numbers.

    It was nothing like an “OS” that you’d think of today, especially since it didn’t have any disk functions and couldn’t run arbitrary programs.

  4. KitsuneDarkStalker Says:

    That wouldn’t be very fun. No wonder it was a flop!

  5. Deerock Alexander Says:

    Someone just gave me one of these things. I wonder if its possible to hook one up to a modern computer and communicate with it.

  6. Benj Edwards Says:


    Since it has an RS-232C serial port, communicating with it is easy. Connect a null modem serial cable between your PC and your terminal (the Actionstation) and run a terminal emulator program on your PC. Set up both to have the same settings, i.e. 2400 BPS, 8-N-1 on the right serial ports, and you should be able to type back and forth. You could even use the terminal as a Linux console, but the instructions on how to do that are a tad more sophisticated.

  7. ubikuberalles Says:

    Actually $15 worth of CompuServe for free wasn’t that bad of a bargain in those days. AOL didn’t exist yet and Compuserve was really the only game in town (other than local BBSes). The only drawback was, unless you lived in good sized city, you’d have to make a long distance call to connect to CompuServe.

    Back in those days, character cell terminals were all the rage. Most businesses owned or rented minicomputers (VAX, IBM, Data General) and a character cell terminal was a standard piece of office equipment. I seem to recall, however, that most had cost between $800 and $1000. That original $1295 cost was a bit steep and I can see why it failed. Also, a phone on the terminal? I don’t think so. Too gimmicky.

    In the mid 1980’s I used my Atari ST to connect to local BBSes (and to dial into the work computer). My ST had cost a heck of a lot less than the original price of that terminal. More useful too. However, the $295 bargain price would have been tempting…naw, I still wouldn’t have bought it. However, if I owned a small business at the time, I would have gotten it.

  8. Rockin' Kat Says:

    I have one of these. I just found it at a local used computer store. It’s keyboard is smaller than standard. It’s a very cute terminal. It’s rather small size(as far as terminals go) played a big roll in my decision to go for it as I don’t really have a lot of room to work with.

    I’m going to replace the internal modem in my Mac G4 with a serial port so I can try to interface it with the terminal and attempt mess around with it.

  9. Used computers Says:

    Surprising …but AOL still does not get me going….you pay everything for it !

  10. Used Computer Says:

    I really agree that AOL had good deals in the old days where computers existed on store shelves of some outlets priced between $800- $1000 ….but today computers are very cheap…

  11. Donald Resor Says:

    TRW and I suppose many other Government Contract companies bought/leased many of these in the 1980s.

    There was one of these on almost every executive Secretary’s desk. The computers around there were big box machines (large scale VAX) and Apple ][‘s.

    Remember at the time, the IBM Electronic 50 (with one line of memory) selectric typewriter was still the craze in many offices.

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