This site is dedicated to the range of video terminals produced by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) from 1970 to 1995. The most famous of these is the VT100, a name which is recognised most often today as a setting in terminal emulation programs.
The real video terminals dealt with here are dedicated devices which are connected to a computer (host) with a serial line. They usually consist of a screen and keyboard, with very little processing power and no local storage. Characters typed on the keyboard are transmitted to the host computer, and characters output from programs running on the host are sent to the terminal to be displayed on the screen. Why would we use devices this simple? Well, their simplicity makes them reliable. There is no operating system and no downloaded software, so they are pretty much impervious to user meddling and viruses. Before PCs put computing power on every desk, a central computer would support tens of users. Now that PCs are as powerful as old mainframes and can run capable multi-user operating systems (take a bow, Linux), there is a resurgence of interest in these low bandwidth, low cost and low maintenance devices.
I started this site in October 1998 as a place to put information that I had collected about the VT320 which I have been using for ten years. Although I’ve used various Digital terminals over the past decade, my favourite is the VT320, mainly because I’ve spent more time writing programs to take advantage of (and stretch) its capabilities than for any other in the range.
Frequently-asked questions about terminals and this site.
VT100 User Guide (EK-VT100-UG). This book is essential reading for anyone
who wants to construct a VT100 emulator. If you use this as the specification and test your implementation
vttest, you won’t go far wrong.
Other manuals: VT100 Series Technical Manual (EK-VT100-TM), serial printer interface VT1XX-AC User Guide (EK-VT1AC-UG)
VT102 User Guide (EK-VT102-UG). Most terminal emulators that claim to emulate a VT100 actually emulate its slightly more capable brother, the VT102.
LA100-Series Programmer Reference Manual (EK-LA100-RM). For the Letterprinter 100 hardcopy terminals.
Digital Terminals and Printers Handbook 1983-84. Information about the VT100 and VT200 terminal families and old Digital printers, from the DECWriter to the LN01 laser printer, including programming summaries.
VT220 Programmer Reference Manual (EK-VT220-RM). Describes VT220
character processing and provides the character codes, escape sequences, and control sequences needed to generate terminal control
Other manuals: VT220 Installation Guide (EK-VT220-IN) and VT220 Pocket Service Guide (EK-VT220-PS).
VT330/VT340 Programmer Reference Manual, Volume 2: Graphics Programming (EK-VT3XX-GP).
A comprehensive guide to the ReGIS, Tektronix and sixel graphic modes of the VT330 and VT340.
VT330 Pocket Service Guide (EK-VT330-PS).
Installing and Using the VT420 Video Terminal (EK-VT420-UU)
VT420 Service Guide (EK-VT420-PS)
VT510 Programmer Information (EK-VT510-RM)
VT520/VT525 Programmer Information (EK-VT520-RM)
I’ve just started a new section on VT Emulation, containing all the materials about standards and escape sequences previously linked from this page.
There are now so many manuals online from other terminal manufacturers that I’ll only be listing new ones here. For the full listings of manuals, please look at the page for that manufacturer. The following companies are currently covered: Alpha Microsystems, Ann Arbor, Beehive, C. Itoh, Data General, Hazeltine, Heath/Zenith, Kimtron, Lear Siegler (LSI), Lynwood, Qume, Research, Inc., Soroc Technology, Sycor, Tandy, Tektronix, TeleVideo, Terminal Technology Ltd., Visual Technology, Volker-Craig, Wyse
I have gradually been accumulating terminals by other manufacturers. The following manuals are online:
The most comprehensive set of links I know of is maintained by Richard Shuford in his Terminal Information Archive. Richard has been scouring newsgroups for years, archiving the best postings on terminal-related topics. This is an essential bookmark.