Dumb terminals

This topic was created by miket82 .


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  1. miket82

    Dumb terminals

    Lots of chatter about O/S, hardware and less often the cloud.

    Anyone remember dumb terminals?

    May be a bit early whilst the big boys fight it out but I can see the return of dumb terminals on the horizon. Switch on, the bios connects to the internet, downloads whatever it needs to fit the hardware and away you go.

    Big advantage, PRISM, NSA, GCHQ et.al can save all that money spying on us as they will be the source of all our needs. Oh dear, maybe not such a good idea after all. Scrub this post.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Dumb terminals

      Today it's called a browser.

      It's a sort of universal dumb terminal

    2. Bleu

      Re: Dumb terminals

      I think you are talking about something completely different.

      A smart terminal had the hardware to handle things like scrolling and moving the cursor around in text.

      A dumb terminal had a single active line at the bottom of the screen, display only above that.

      Both were intended for use with something else, a mini or mainframe, or later, a workstation network.

      I had to use a dumb terminal once during my thesis, because all of the other machines were taken. An interesting experience. It was hooked up to a workstation network.

      My favourite smart terminals were the ones from IBM, hooked up to one of their mainframes. Very impressive!

      I think that, by dumb terminal, you mean what thin client used to mean.

    3. Christian Berger

      Re: Dumb terminals

      Well browsers are to complex to be considered "dumb terminals". After all there are _lots_ of bugs in both the implementation and concept of browsers that open them to security problems.

      A sensible solution would be something like VNC, a simple protocol for "web applications" which can be implemented with a minimum of complexity.

      And of course the server doesn't have to be at some big company, it could just as well be in your basement or even in a spot in a data centre you rent.

    4. Bleu

      Re: Dumb terminals

      A pithier reply is in order.

      miket82 hasn't the slightest idea what a dumb terminal is or was.

      Way to display ignorance.

  2. Delbert Grady


    i'd love another dumb terminal.. my last was an ex BT Data General amber screen. RS232 jobby. Lovely. I'd like to use it as a simple private IRC terminal. prices on Ebay are insulting. I miss those days... before OS got in the way too much.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      Delbert, when I'm looking for that kind of thing, I drop a note to weirdstuff.com and/or halted.com ... they usually have dumb terminals available. I picked up a pallet load of IBM 5152s with model M keyboards for US$25 total from Weirdstuff about a decade and a half ago, and a dozen Wyse 50 terminals several years later from Halted for US$10 each. All were new old stock, still in the factory shrinkwrap. I picked 'em up myself, I have no idea what they charge for shipping.

      When setting up a new Slackware or BSD system, the first thing I do after setting up the OS is hang a dumb terminal off a serial port (now USB to serial) and send it a login prompt. Note that almost any dumb terminal will work. The only real issue you might have is figuring out a valid termcap entry ... Slackware's /etc/termcap-BSD will probably have what you need for more esoteric terminals than the above mentioned.

      I use 'em to monitor stderr and other debugging (sometimes with a fan-fold printer capturing the screen output), for writing, IRC, email, lynx, etc. They are also really handy for fixing a titsup GUI without having to reboot. My nieces and nephews like to play Wumpus & Trek and other old BSD games on them.

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