Cathode: Vintage Terminal Emulator.

This is fantastic.

Bask in the glow of over-bright phosphors that flash on and slowly fade away. Customize the screen's curvature, colors, and transparency. Slow the bit-rate to a crawl.

Watch the strange dance of beam desyncs and shifting colors. Turn up the noise, jitter, and flicker to add a realistic warmth.

Disregard thirty years of GUI advancement by immersing yourself in full-screen mode. Impress curious onlookers at internet cafes.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.


Getting a lot of hits on this one... For those of you tuning in late, or who don't click my "previously" links, back in 2006 there was an earlier program of similar concept called "GLTerminal". This new "Cathode" program works a lot better, though.

For those of you on Linux (or using X11 on a Mac), you can accomplish a very similar thing by using the "apple2" module of my xscreensaver package, as detailed here (and also here and here). The underlying display module shared by the apple2, pong, m6502, and xanalogtv screen savers is actually simulating the hardware of an old CRT, rather than just doing an effect that kinda-sorta looks like it. Reading all of the comments in hacks/analogtv.c is well worth your time.

Update 2, 2012: Hey, as of release 5.19 in late 2011, the MacOS release of XScreenSaver includes stand-alone application versions of the Apple2 and Phosphor screen savers that are pre-configured to work as terminal emulators. Check them out.

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25 Responses:

  1. Pavel says:

    It'll go well with the AppleII emulator I have set up as my screensaver. Right now it's running a random Wikipedia page; I wish I had something more sinister it could output.

  2. Will says:

    It always surprises me, particularly in this case, where the variety of options is so rich, that nobody remembers what a vt100 screen actually looked like. There's a very distinct blue-grey cast that none of the color options really come close to.

    • Lun Esex says:

      VT100 is kind of missing the point. If it had a VT100 mode I'd expect to see it support ANSI, blink, bold, reverse video, underlined text, etc. An 80-column Apple II display, though, matches up exactly with the minimal, plain text output you expect to get from a typical *nix terminal program.

      Another mode that would match up well, though, would be an ADM-3A appearance. There's probably a lot fewer people using Macs who would have memories (I hesitate to include the word "fond" with that) of one of those, however. More people probably came to Macs after using Apple IIs than after using ADM-3As (or VT100s, etc.).

      That said, I still have an actual ADM-3A terminal in my parent's garage... It should still work even after not being turned on in two decades. Though if something's gone wrong with it I imagine it'd be pretty easy to fix, since its logic board was just a collection of discrete TTL chips. I keep meaning to ask the Computer History Museum if they need an ADM-3A, or could use an additional one.

    • The color is pretty close to my H19. Well, what my H19 would look like if I turned the brightness up way too high.

      The H19's corners are a little rounder.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    Next I hope they do the Tektronix 401x style screens. Deep green on green, with blinding erase flash.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, my suggestion was to put some presets for various classic terminal hardware in the themes menu, so that we don't all have to rely on our memories...

  4. riney says:

    That is the Coolest. Fucking. Thing. If only I could get it to replicate the slow, top-to-bottom, sinusoidal wobble that the 5250-style terminal next to my school's AS/400 had...

  5. Noah Friedman says:

    I still want xaaaterm.

  6. mfc says:

    How about IBM 3279? Best screen *and* best keyboard, ever .. :-)

  7. Breton says:

    I came to this blog after finding cathode on Andy Baio's linkblog... and I have to say this is spooky. Installing lynx, and doing a hex dump of a file are precisely the same two things I did with it as well.

  8. David Nicol says:

    i liked the smooth scrolling of an amber vt-220

  9. Phil says:

    What I REALLY want to see is the addition of the xanalogtv extensions to this application. Need that bloom! (Previously.)

    Ironically, the CPU power required to provide that kind of simulation probably exceeds the CPU power of the devices to which those actual terminals used to attach.

  10. Aaron says:

    This is awesome. $20 for the full version? C'mon!

    • Jeffrey Paul says:

      Shut up. It's $20. I have never bought software faster.

      Also, it's the most amazing nagware ever: it increases the video noise gradually while you use it (warning you it's doing so) until you buy it! Genius!

      These guys deserve all of our money.

  11. Ooooh, I likey.

    Now, how do I get the Javascript console to output to that? I need an HTML5 version!

  12. Lloyd says:

    Interesting to see the ever-increasing list of Mac video chippery that Cathode refuses to play with. FIrst it was the GMA 950 listed on the webpage. Then they added the X3100. Now they're working their way through a bunch of NVIDIA and ATI chips that, oh noes, it won't work on.

    Seriously, how hard is it to map a bitmap to a curved surface and add effects? That's decades old. What's with the insistence on writing to OpenGL 2.0, anyway?

  13. L. says:

    Oh, and they're (probably, since I can't run the thing due to OpenGL sniffiness) missing a trick. There should be an option to take input from the camera and map it as a reflection on the screen, or perhaps just the relevant part of the camera image on the part that the window occupies.

    That terminal glass was _shiny_.

    • Lloyd says:

      Oh wait, most of the Macs it's limited to shipped with glossy screens. so you get the effect anyway. Nevermind.

  14. mediapathic says:

    A very compelling argument for moving to 10.6.

  15. vvill says:

    master howsaythee?
    "Zen you will see, it is not the spoon that bends, it is only self"

    at first I thought home, than I thought asm,than I clicked for clicked for closer look,, foo, damned blurry screen, I zoomed, Oh, what is jz running? Oh it really is home, dorothy....

  16. Brad Allison says:

    Need to look up how to run that with the title bar off...

  17. lee says:

    Tears are falling on my keyboard with the horrible knowledge that I can't run this on windows.

  18. Shaddow says:

    great software, how do you scroll up though?

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