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Continuing the retro...

This evening, more for fun than for any real serious reason, and following on the retro theme from the last post, I decided to make myself a retro green screen terminal.

Alas it's not a proper old Wyse WY-85, like I used to have an attic full of (oh how I wish I hadn't got rid of them...), but it's about as close as I can get using semi-modern hardware.

My starting point was an old laptop - a Core Duo 2GHz Toshiba Satellite from many many years ago, and a 17" 4:3 aspect ratio Dell TFT monitor. I specifically wanted the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is why I didn't just use the laptop's built-in screen.

So it goes basically like this:

  1. Remove the motherboard from the laptop
  2. Attach it to the back of the screen (for which I used M3 PCB standoffs and drilled and tapped holes in the back of the monitor case)
  3. Make a new stand for the screen since the old one won't fit any more with the laptop motherboard stuck to the back (nothing loads of hot-glue can't fix)
  4. Create my own mini distribution of Devuan Linux (chosen because it does not use systemd) which boots straight into X and runs some software to make it look like an old terminal.

Here's how it all looks:

I mean, it's fairly retro.

What that is running is:

  • cool-retro-term for the retro look to the terminal
  • a modified version of screen (to give the cursor location in the hardstatus line)
  • a screen "backtick" script to get the caps/num lock status and display them in the hardstatus
  • a number of other scripts to make it boot and look like it's connected to a DEC LAT terminal server
  • a modified version of telnet that just removes some of the connection progress text

I still have some work to do on the scripts, but I may release them all on Github along with possibly a bootable image that you could have fun with.

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