[vcf-midatlantic] Museum report: terminals

Evan Koblentz evan at vcfed.org
Mon Jul 9 13:04:26 EDT 2018

> Well, Evan asked me to come in on Sunday, to review the terminals and 
> inventory them. That's because of my experience in the era of the 
> 1970's and 80's. I was a minicomputer and mainframe site manager, and 
> I was a technical student user at various universities; later I was a 
> digital engineer. I also repair terminals. I'll walk though what I 
> saw, and post a summary here to inform the people Evan is asking for 
> help. I'll send Evan a more detailed report, but he has the list and 
> location-of information I compiled Sunday.
> I did a quick survey (two hours), focused on CRT-based terminals and 
> gave the list to Evan. Only warehoused terminals, not ones on display. 
> Mostly there's DEC terminals. A dozen VR-201's (most with "moldy" 
> CRTs). VR-201's are CRT "heads" which have a cabled keyboard, and 
> often were used with DEC desktop computers. Also a few DEC VT-100 or 
> VT-180; the 180's may have a microcomputer. A few DEC 200 or 400 
> series terminals.
> A few each, of ADM-3A,  Heath H19 (Zenith Z19), a Perkin-Elmer model, 
> an IBM model, a few other brand/models. There's a small number of 
> one-each of ASCII based commodity terminals - this is what Evan called 
> "obscure" I think. Hazeltine brand, ADDS, and so on. Evan has the 
> list, he can provide details. Some of these have "moldy CRTs" too.
> Many terminals used detatched keyboards. There's boxes of keyboards, 
> which I did not survey; so I don't know if there's enough or too many! 
> And there's a few mechanical or printing terminals, which I did not 
> survey but noted. I didn't cover monitors - I'll explain why that 
> matters to terminals.
> I saw many "moldy" CRT's - that's when the front of the CRT has a 
> transparent cover that's separating from the glass. Repair means 
> replacing the CRT, which can take most of an hour depending. CRT's are 
> available for tens of dollars for common types, some CRTs can be 
> swapped around from microcomputer monitors, even old TV's. A number of 
> tech volunteers are familiar with these repairs.
> Evan said "There are some obscure terminals that we probably don't 
> need". I disagree, for several reasons. If they work, they are useful; 
> if they don't the CRTs may be useful. It's a matter of history - lots 
> of little companies made terminals, it's not all IBM, DEC, HP. Here's 
> my experience, Evan - computer rooms in the era used lots of kinds of 
> terminals. Also: to provide public visitors with a terminal they can 
> bang on. And, terminals won't be EASIER to get in the future.
> But, it's ALSO true, there were computer-rooms with one kind of 
> terminal. The HP, Perkin Elmer, IBM, DEC terminals I saw may go with 
> specific minicomputers in the collection. The museum may need more of 
> those. Only DEC VR201's seem to be in any quantity.
> Evan's focus on Sunday, was to identify and organize. I'm looking a 
> little further ahead, to repair and potential uses. Now, with a list 
> in hand, Evan can ask others to look over specific terminals for 
> repair, to identify monitors as "CRT donors", to solicit CRT's for 
> replacement. And to start looking to match minicomputers with 
> terminals for display and use. And, to allocate terminals for various 
> purposes, and to tell people what terminals we have or don't have. I'm 
> describing my general results here in the list, so people with 
> terminals or monitors, or skills, are better informed and can offer 
> specific help or items.
> Herb Johnson

We definitely picked the right person for this job! Thanks again Herb 
for the detailed report you gave me yesterday.

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