Retrofinds - Office Computers

The Dumb Terminal Era


(images via: Rob Cruickshank, LevitateMe and Gaby)

By the late 1970s branch offices in distant cities could connect to company mainframes through existing phone lines while the hulking master computers hunkered down in chilly, temperature-controlled clean rooms. Around this time desktop video display terminals (VDTs) began to assume a common design theme: a rounded plastic shell that housed a monochrome CRT screen and integrated keyboard. Above is one of the more stylish designs, the Lear-Siegler ADM-5 video display terminal.


terminals_6(images via: and William Bader)

Many companies made VDTs in the roughly 10-year window between the advent of affordable office computing systems and the introduction of self-contained desktop PCs. Digital Equipment’s VT100 was perhaps the most popular of the bunch. First sold in the summer of 1978, the VT100 boasted ANSI-compliance and a choice between two display formats: 80 columns by 24 lines or 132 columns by 14 lines. Graphics? Sure… if you like ASCII art.