When Datamedia announced their new DT80 terminal as a VT100 killer back in 1979, they were so confident of its reliability, they threw in a full one-year warranty. Now, decades later, that confidence is once more put to the touch after [RingingResonance] fished one such terminal out of a creek by an old illegal dumping site. Not knowing what to expect from the muck-ridden artifact, his journey of slowly breathing life back into the device began.
Considering the layers of mud and roots already growing all over the main board, one can only assume how long the terminal has actually been in there. But cleaning it from all that was only the beginning: some components were missing, others turned out to be broken, including some of the ROMs, which [RingingResonance] speculates may have been caused by lightning which determined the DT80’s fate in the first place.
That’s when the adventure really started though, digging deep into the terminal’s inner life, eventually writing a debugger and own firmware for it. That code, along with all other research, notes, and links to plenty more pictures can be found in the GitHub repository, and is definitely worth checking out if you’re into the technologies of yesteryear.
Despite the DT80’s claimed superiority, the VT100 prevailed and is the terminal that history remembers — and emulates, whether as tiny wearable or a full look-alike. But this fall into oblivion was also part of [RingingResonance]’s motivation to keep going forward restoring the DT80. Someone had to. So if you happen to have anything to contribute to his endeavours or share with him, we’re sure he will appreciate you reaching out to him.
When [Michael Gardi] finished his scaled down DEC VT100 replica a few months ago, he made it very clear that the project was only meant to look like a vintage terminal on the outside. A peek into the case revealed nothing more exotic than a Raspberry Pi running its default operating system, making the terminal just as well suited to emulating classic games as it was dialing into a remote system. But as any hacker knows, some projects end up developing a life of their own.
It started simply enough. The addition of an RS-232 Serial HAT to the Raspberry Pi meant that the 3D printed VT100 could actually operate as a serial terminal using software such as minicom. Then [Lars Brinkhoff] got involved. He loved the look of the printed VT100, and thought it deserved better than a generic terminal emulator. So he went ahead and started developing a custom terminal simulator for it to run.
The idea here is that an an 8080 emulator actually runs an original VT100 firmware ROM, warts and all. It makes all the beeps and chirps you’d expect from the real hardware, and there’s even some OpenGL trickery used to mimic an old CRT display, complete with scan lines and a soft glow around characters.
Naturally the visual effects consume a fair amount of processing power, so [Lars] cautions that anything lower than the Pi 4 will likely experience slowdowns. Of course, nothing is stopping you from running the simulator on your desktop machine if you’re looking for that classic terminal experience.
Did this gorgeous recreation of the VT100 need to have a true serial interface or a simulator that recreates the unique menu system of the original? Not at all. Even without those additions, it blew us away when [Michael] first sent it in. But are we happy that these guys have put in the time to perfect this already stellar project? We think you already know the answer.
When you have a microcontroller or other microcomputer on the bench in front of you and it lacks the familiar keyboard and display of a modern desktop computer, what do you do when you wish to program it or otherwise issue commands? Unless you are a retro computer enthusiast who longs for a set of Altair-style toggle switches, the chances are you’ll find its serial port and attach a terminal.
Serial terminals, devices containing a screen and keyboard hooked up to send and display text from a serial port, used to be a staple of computing, but as standalone devices, they’re now rather rare. In most cases nowadays using a serial terminal will mean opening up a terminal emulator in your modern OS, Linux, Windows, or MacOS, but there is still a use for standalone hardware. [Kuldeep Singh Dhaka] certainly thinks so, because he’s making an extremely nice portable terminal with an LCD screen.
The terminal emulates a venerable DEC VT-100 terminal, but since it’s built around an STM32F105 ARM microcontroller we’re sure it could emulate other models with appropriate software. It takes either a USB or a PS/2 keyboard, so we’d expect to see it paired with a suitably tiny portable keyboard when it in use. There is no source code available for it yet since this is very much still a project in development that we’re featuring now because it is a 2017 Hackaday Prize entry, but he assures us that code will be on its way and it will be GPL licenced.
He’s even posted a video that we’ve placed below the break of the device in operation, connected to a machine running MicroPython. We’d probably turn off that beep, though.
Our friends over at Hack42 in the Netherlands decided to have some fun with their computer museum. So far, they’ve been able to display the Hack a Day retro site on three classic computers — including an Apple Lisa, a DEC GIGI, and a run of the mill DEC VT100. We had the opportunity to visit Hack42 last October during our Hackerspacing in Europe trip — but just as a refresher if you don’t remember, Hack42 is in Arnhem, in the Netherlands — just outside of Germany. The compound was built in 1942 as a German military base, disguised as a bunch of farmhouses. It is now home to Hack42, artist studios, and other random businesses. The neat thing is, its location is still blurred out on Google Maps! Needless to say, their hackerspace has lots of space. Seriously. So much so they have their own computer museum! Which is why they’ve decided to have some fun with them… Continue reading “Hack A Day Goes Retro In A Computer Museum”→