Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

General discussions related to the Altair 8800 Clone

Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby johnnystarr » February 13th, 2019, 10:21 pm

Hello everyone,

I just ordered my Altair Clone along with the cassette interface. While I wait, I am curious what sort of terminals will automatically work with a DB25 connector?
I missed out on the 70s (born in the early 80s), so I don't know a ton about this era. I have seen "Wyse" terminals on eBay with what appears to be DB25 connectors that
typically say "Modem" and "AUX". I have found that the keyboard connector is an RJ11 (phone style) connector for these?

I am going to initially connect to the Configuration Monitor etc using the DB25 to DB9 -> USB to my PC and use TerraTerm or something similar. But eventually, I'd like
to get a dedicated terminal.

I was hoping that the community could weigh in on what terminals or TeleTypes have worked best for you. I've seen at least 3 - 4 on eBay over the last
few weeks. I honestly know nothing about them nor if they would work with the Clone without additional work.

Regarding tape punch machines, I have seen those in several forms. I realize these things aren't cheap, but I mostly care about picking up the right one.
Also, are there other sites that have them besides eBay?

TL;DR

Looking for a list of "supported" peripherals / I/O devices. Ideally with what you might consider a fair price.

Thanks!
johnnystarr
 
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby toml_12953 » February 14th, 2019, 12:57 am

johnnystarr wrote:Hello everyone,

I just ordered my Altair Clone along with the cassette interface. While I wait, I am curious what sort of terminals will automatically work with a DB25 connector?
I missed out on the 70s (born in the early 80s), so I don't know a ton about this era. I have seen "Wyse" terminals on eBay with what appears to be DB25 connectors that
typically say "Modem" and "AUX". I have found that the keyboard connector is an RJ11 (phone style) connector for these?

I am going to initially connect to the Configuration Monitor etc using the DB25 to DB9 -> USB to my PC and use TerraTerm or something similar. But eventually, I'd like
to get a dedicated terminal.

I was hoping that the community could weigh in on what terminals or TeleTypes have worked best for you. I've seen at least 3 - 4 on eBay over the last
few weeks. I honestly know nothing about them nor if they would work with the Clone without additional work.

Regarding tape punch machines, I have seen those in several forms. I realize these things aren't cheap, but I mostly care about picking up the right one.
Also, are there other sites that have them besides eBay?

TL;DR

Looking for a list of "supported" peripherals / I/O devices. Ideally with what you might consider a fair price.

Thanks!


I have a Teletype ASR33 with Mike's RS-232 converter installed and it works with the Clone great. I also have an ADM-5 dumb terminal that works as well. I also use a PC with TeraTerm when I want to update the disks in the Clone. That's my one complaint - in order to put disks in the Clone, you need a PC. Even if the device has a 9-pin connector, you can get a cable that has a DB-25 on the other end. The most work you might have to do is change the baud rate in the Clone and add a null modem cable or small converter to the cable connecting the Clone and terminal. It seems like it's a lot when you've never done it before but after you hook up a terminal or two, you'll be able to connect most terminals like a pro.

Go to YouTube to watch Mike's excellent series on the Clone. In one of the videos, he demonstrates a tape reader/punch that is just super. When I saw the video, I had to get one for myself. After using the 110 baud Teletype to punch and read tapes, using a 9600 baud reader/punch is amazing! The tape just flies through it.

You're embarking on a great journey! The learning will be fun and discovery will be rewarding.
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby TomXP411 » February 14th, 2019, 2:52 am

The ideal and most well-supported terminal is probably a DEC VT compatible unit. The VT-102/ANSI command set is by far the most popular in the world, and even software that doesn't support VT-102 by default has since been patched for it.

So that's what I'd look for: a DEC VT-102 or compatible terminal.

Personally, while I'd love to have an old terminal, I've settled for using a Raspberry Pi running either Minicom or a NUC with DOSBox and Telemate. Telemate was the best DOS terminal program ever written, and it works great with the Altair.
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby mail@gabrielegan.com » February 14th, 2019, 6:32 am

Searching Ebay for 'dumb terminal' and 'vintage terminal' is how I got my terminals for the Altair Clone. Almost all the old ones have DB-25 connectors on, but you never know whether they are going to be male or female so get some easily available (eg on Amazon) gender changers (one male-to-male and one female-to-female). If a terminal you're considering doesn't have a DB-25 (or, rarely, a DB-9) connector on, forget it as the hookup will be a lot of trouble. If it does, try to find out if the protocol it's wired up for is RS-232. If not (if say it's Current Loop or something else), forget it as the hookup will be some trouble. (These things are fun to try out later, but to start off with I'd say you want an RS-232 dumb terminal with a DB-25 or DB-9 connector.)

The seller may well not be able to tell you if the terminal is working since most people haven't got anything to test them with. Ask them to use an opened-out paper-clip to connect pin/hole 2 and pin/hole 3 on the DB-25 connector. This connects the 'send' out to the 'receive' in and should enable the seller to type characters on the keyboard and make them appear on the screen. If this doesn't work, forget it. (If anybody else here thinks this is bad or dangerous advice I'd be interested to know that -- it's what I've asked sellers to try.)

In choosing between dumb terminals, it's better to get one for which you can find the manual online because you may well need to flip some switches (in a little bank of them call DIP switches) to set the speed at which the terminal communicates with what it's plugged into. Sometimes instead of flipping switches there's a magic keyboard combination you have to hold down to bring up a setup page. If you get one of the better-known makes (such as Wyse and DEC) you make be able to Google 'what's the keyboard combination to enter the setup page on an xyz terminal?'. The Altair's Configuration Monitor defaults to 9600 baud and if you can get your dumb terminal to do the same that's convenient. The DIP switches (or setup page) will also set things like 7-or 8-bit communication (you want 8 but 7 may well work), number of stop bits (you want 1), and even/odd/no parity (you want no parity). Without the manual you may need to try all the possible settings on the DIP switches, powering off and powering on the terminal between each try in case the settings get read only at power off.

Regards

Gabriel
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby johnnystarr » February 14th, 2019, 12:30 pm

Awesome feedback everyone!

I do have a quick follow up question. With the clone, I've read that it has 2 terminals (3 with the cassette interface added, which I have ordered)
Day 1, I want to be able to hop on to the configuration manager. Would I connect the DB25 to terminal 1 (the top one) and it automatically work?

In the manual, I've read that each terminal has an additional A & B port. Do I have to switch between these via configuration manager? Or is it saying that Terminal 1 has both ports A & B and it pushes to them both and depending on the software, we can either read or write with IN / OUT instructions?

Thanks
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby kwiebe » February 14th, 2019, 1:31 pm

Regarding real terminals, I wanted to add my vote to picking one up if you can. Great experience to go along with retro computing in general and since the comms are based on standards, connecting them up is not too difficult (upthread comments agree with my experience).

By the way the tip using the paperclip is awesome - I never thought of that.

I just happened to be browsing ebay one day and ran across a NIB "Concurrent Computer Corp" CDT-100 from late 80's/early 90's. I found out it's obscure, company defunct, but it's VT-100 compatible and came with the original manual (since it's NIB). When I hooked it up the only issue was, it uses a coin battery on the motherboard to store config changes. So every power-up reverted to default config and I had to re-enter all my changes. But I had the battery replaced and now all is well.

I've found this site to be a great terminal resource for model information, pictures, manuals:

https://terminals-wiki.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
-Ken
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Re: Terminals, Teletypes, Tape Punches - Suggestions

Postby TronDD » February 15th, 2019, 10:29 pm

johnnystarr wrote:Awesome feedback everyone!

I do have a quick follow up question. With the clone, I've read that it has 2 terminals (3 with the cassette interface added, which I have ordered)
Day 1, I want to be able to hop on to the configuration manager. Would I connect the DB25 to terminal 1 (the top one) and it automatically work?

In the manual, I've read that each terminal has an additional A & B port. Do I have to switch between these via configuration manager? Or is it saying that Terminal 1 has both ports A & B and it pushes to them both and depending on the software, we can either read or write with IN / OUT instructions?

Thanks


If I understand what you're asking. The Clone has what would have been two different physical serial IO cards. The SIO and the 2/SIO. The SIO has one port. The 2/SIO has 2 ports. With the cassette interface, your clone will have 3 ports on the back corresponding to the 3 available serial ports. It should arrive pre-configured to access the configuration menus from the top port. I haven't checked to see if it will also work on the other ports.

Each serial port is configured separately in the configuration menu. They can all be enabled at different addresses (and it'll come that way) and then software can use any or all of them by using the corresponding address.

Keep in mind, the configuration menu works differently than real software executing on the Altair. Any software you run has to be coded to use the right serial card at the right addresses you have configured in order for it to work.
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