Real VT102 emulation with MAME - Screwtape's Notepad

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2024-06-05 21:00:18

As a software developer, I spend a lot of time using the terminal, or more properly, a “terminal emulator”. Tools like iTerm2, or PuTTY, or GNOME Terminal, or the classic xterm and rxvt are all “terminal emulators”; they take raw text and formatting instructions and interpret them to display pretty text on the screen. But if these tools which are commonly called “terminals” are actually “terminal emulators”, then what’s the actual terminal they’re emulating?

These days, most terminal emulators are really emulating xterm; it’s one of the oldest and most featureful terminal emulators, so for compatibility reasons other terminal emulators tend to follow it. But xterm’s webpage says it “provides DEC VT102 and Tektronix 4014 compatible terminals”. That is, xterm is an emulator for the VT102 terminal:

The Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC for short, built many different kinds of terminals, but the VT100 was the one that really took off, and all subsequent models (the VT220, VT320, VT420, VT520 and all their variants) were backwards compatible with it. Since they were one of the oldest and most featureful families of terminals, for compatibility reasons xterm decided to follow them.

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