A few years ago, I was intrigued by this Texas Instruments-like calculator sitting on a shelf. It really looked like a first-gen TI-57 or any of the many offspring and custom models built over the years. But after giving a closer look at the device, I decided to acquire one of these, just because it was looking like a calculator, but was a computer terminal. Now we are talking! A pocket-sized computer terminal with a single DB25 connector, a coiled telephone cord-like cable and no sign of any battery pack. Instead, a simple six-bit dipswitch hides behind the back cover. Of course, no documentation available – even after prowling the web for a while –, so I knew that I will have a lot of fun to make it run. And indeed, I had fun. First, the device takes its +5v power thru the DB25. Once you power it, you need to set the UART. It handles 110 or 300 bauds only. It uses 7 bits per character and based on your settings, stop bits and handshake mode can be set as usual. A simple terminal emulator such as PuTTY or Tera Term works great for testing. I may try to connect this pocket terminal to my Altair 8800, just for the beauty of it and to talk to something more than a dumb terminal.
It turns out that this UK makes the device – as early as the mid-70s’ – had a pretty long lifetime, with many enhanced models (the one I have is an early one). It seemed to gain some industry esteem driving quite a range of uncommon devices such as telescopes or lab measurement devices. The keyboard is similar to any of the TI calculators’ (I’ve shot several classic TIs next to it so you can judge by yourself). Using this keyboard, you can emit plain ASCII codes plus a set of control codes. Some of my videos show the use of the CR + LF or the repeat commands for example. The cursor horizontal positioning – in the current line – is also available. Last but not least, the 8 alphanumerical segmented display is definitively different from the TI one. It is capable of displaying the ASCII characters, and the characters are much bigger and easier to read. This is something you would expect from a field device. The display is, in fact, a window that can slide left to right over a 32 characters display buffer. Finally, it is the first time that I’ve used a macro lens to illustrate a post. As an extra – not directly related to this post –, I’ve shot some pics of an HP HDSP-200 chip (I marked then accordingly to avoid confusion). Enjoy!