I've been trying to research them for a while now, but I've never used one, and can't seem to find any that I could use. So some one tell me, what can I do with a terminal? Could I connect to a remote computer, from my house, with some DEC VT510 (and is that the whole idea?)
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A terminal can be both software or hardware based. A hardware terminal (like a VT100) is just a console that will connect you to remote machines to view their files (like FTP or Telnetting into a computer). It's much easier to use a terminal emulator or a telnetting tool to gain access to such sites. I would suggest "Putty" for Windows and "MacSSH" for Mac.
Here's what I use terminal programs for:
I have a network of 10+ machines and sometimes more with wireless at home. I have a router connecting them to the broadband DSL line and then out to the internet. Between the network and the router is a heavily upgraded PowerMac 7500/233 running an OS called NetBSD 1.6 (www.netbsd.org). NetBSD is a longtime-praised verison of UNIX created by Berkley systems (also the people that wrote the "After Dark!" screensaver) This OS is both fast and secure, and allows you to terminal into it to view both files on the BSD computer and on the ENTIRE HOME NETWORK, from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. I can connect from the Mac with my SSH tool using a login and password I created, with then gives me a visual interpretation (basically a mini DOS-looking monitor) of the BSD box. In this fashion, a terminal can be the computer monitor for dozens of keyboard-and-screenless server computers that run 24/7.
You could get a DEC terminal, but I would suggest trying one of the pieces of software above first to get a feel for the whole terminal experience. If anything, I would buy a 486 or Pentium PC or PowerMac 604e 200 MHZ+ system and try installing NetBSD on it, THEN try terminaling into it FIRST- that way you get an all-encompasing idea of terminal networks.
I do have MacSSH, Telnet, and Zterm on my computers, (although Zterm seems to be more phone oriented). I've tried typing in an ip adress to one of my computers with MacSSH or telnet on the connection prompt, but still nothing happens. I like the 486/netbsd idea though... you would make the connections with a standard ethernet cable correct? Or would it have to connected to the DSL?
I wonder how much terminals cost anyway, I bet there are thousands of them...
Are you running a telnet or SSH server on the machine that you tried to connect to? I know it seems like a bit of an odd question, but if there's no server, the terminal has nothing to connect to.
If you're running the terminal software off of a computer with an internet connection, you could check out sdf.lonestar.org. It's a public access unix system. Just sign up for an account and you can have some fun there. Just telnet to that address.
No, I don't work for these people.
"NetBSD is a longtime-praised verison of UNIX created by Berkley systems"
ok... first of all, Berkley Systems didn't create "NetBSD", just BSD. It was, originally, some students at VA Tech that were not happy with the requirement that they had to buy a license for A/UX to be in the CS program (or maybe they didn't like A/UX, I'm not exactly sure) that created NetBSD. It was first widely known as "MacBSD."
Second of all, the Berkley Systems Distribution (BSD) misspelled "Berkeley" (pronounced "Bark-lee" after Bishop Berkeley, who founded Berkeley, CA, and who also asked the famous philosophical question: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, I'm not sure if they misspelled it or if there is an alternate spelling, as Bishop Berkeley was a Brit, and they sometimes spell things funny.
Thanks so much.
...but if we started correcting spelling mistakes here, it would fill up half our bandwidth. I've learned to bite my tongue. But a good clarification on MacBSD / NetBSD origins.
A practical application of terminals:
1) At the newspaper I work at, we run a telephone service that lets users call in to hear horoscopes, lottery results, etc. We need to print out call counts daily, and telnet into the machine and print the call counts locally. In fact, the only 'hard' access point to the proprietary computer that runs the phone service is a VT320 terminal (with a gorgeous retro green phosphor screen).
2) Our imagesetter transports - that transport negatives from the imager into the film processors - run on an embedded PC. They sometimes jam, drop film and otherwise cause trouble. I hooked up VT220 terminals to them (an option specified by the manual) and now we see a serial output of exactly which stage the transport is at and can diagnose problems much faster.
You know when you run the "Terminal" program under OS X? Yeah, they call it Terminal, because that is exactly what it is emulating, a text-only interface to a computer. Most real hardware terminals work on serial ports, and as such can either be plugged directly into a computer, or connected to a modem and dialed into a remote system. 99% (random guess ::) ) of old teminals work with serial ports. I've got a newer, but still older Wyse WinTerm 2500TP that has sereial and ethernet and can function as a standalone telnet client. I also have a Wyse model 65+ (IIRC) that I used on my SPARCserver 1000 (6x CPUs, woo hoo!) before I got a frame buffer (video card in PC speak) for it. Basically, unless you have a real need, or desire, to use a hardware terminal it would be more flexible to use an old computer to run a terminal emulator of any sort.