Dumb Terminals And Raspberry Pis

Back in the old days, the cool kids didn’t have an Apple II or a Trash-80. The cool kids had jobs, and those jobs had Vaxxen all over the place. The usual way of working with a Vax would have been a terminal, a VT220 at least, or in the case of [Sudos]’ experiments with a Raspberry Pi, A DEC VT510, a single session, text only serial terminal.

Usually, when we see a ‘new hardware stuffed into old tech’ project like this, the idea is simply to find a use for the old hardware. That makes sense; a dumb terminal from the late 90s should be a bit rarer than a Raspberry Pi Zero. This is not the case for [Sudos]’s build. He recently came across a few Raspberry Pi Zeros at Microcenter, and looking for a use for them, he decided to turn a serial terminal into a Real Unix System™.

As you would expect from a serial terminal, connecting a Raspberry Pi and putting some awesome character graphics on the screen is as simple as a Max3232 board picked up from eBay, a WiFi dongle, and an Ethernet adapter. Connect the Pi to the terminal with a serial adapter cable, and you’re off to the races.

While the VT510 serial terminal is just about the end of the line as far as dedicated terminals go, there are classier options. The VT100 terminal, older than most of the Hackaday readership, features a port on its gigantic board, meant to connect to whatever weirdness was coming out of Maynard in the late 70s. You can attach a BeagleBone to this connector, making for a very slick stealth mod.

17 thoughts on “Dumb Terminals And Raspberry Pis

      1. The junior college I was attending had a coco in the corner of the library. I would run over there after algebra to write programs to graph equations in my homework. I was floored by its 16 color capability and sound generation that was lacking in the “IBM compatibles.”

  1. I got my TRS-80 in 1977. The VT220 wasn’t introduced until 1983, the year I gratuated college. So I got to be one of the cool kids hacking on an original TRS-80 *and* one of the cool kids with a job hacking on one of the first VT220s attached to a VAX.

  2. I do find it a bit humorous that a machine that has more processing power (rpi 0) and storage (2GB microSD card) than supercomputers of the 70s are now used as dumb terminals. :)

    1. It’s not being used _as_ a dumb terminal. It’s being used as a “supercomputer of the 70s”, conveniently hidden inside the dumb terminal (which is then used to access said computer).

  3. VAX320 had a better c/c++ debugger than GDB is today, that’s progress for you………………… Heck, DEVPAK on the Amiga was better than GDB too.

    I’m ready to be flamed, but someone’s got to say it.

  4. I did a variation on the ‘Beaglebone Black inna VT100’ earlier this year but didn’t think to put it on Hackaday as I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ enough. It’s one of my old VT100s from work concealing a BBB running simh emulating a few VAXen and a couple of PDP11s. Had to build my own UART board too. Fun little project!

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