New old terminal

One of the biggest challenges for retro computer makers is the terminal. You know, that part with a keyboard and a display.

Building an SBC is easy: you use the 7segment display and 20-25 push buttons in a matrix, and everything is OK. But what about more sophisticated machines, with text output, or graphics, with a full QWERTY keyboard...?

You can use, of course, a PS/2 PC keyboard, but it hasn't an authentic retro feeling. On the other hand, PC keyboards are deadly cheap. You can still make a membrane keyboard as the ZX-80 has, it's cheap enough, but... you know...

You can cannibalize old computer wrecks too, but such construction is not replicable well.

And the last way is to build your own keyboard, with full pushbutton switches, and if you need something with a better feeling, you have to use some MX switches, and the keyboard is as expensive as the rest of your computer is.

But the keyboard is only one part of the terminal issue. The second part is a display.

Using CRT TV is true vintage, but too expensive, not replicable, and not comfortable at all. The better way is to use an old VGA monitor. Of course, the flat screen is not vintage, but still better than heavy CRT.

A good compromise is a mini LCD display, sold on eBay or Ali as a "rear camera monitor" for cars. It has a 7 or 9-inch color display and composite PAL input signal. Powered on 12 V or 5V - it's a great gadget to build your own 80s vintage handheld. :)

A great thing is the composite PAL signal is suitable for many other displays, from TVs to some monitors, so it's not "vendor locked".

Another way is to use some text or graphics LCD module you may know from the Arduino world. I recently have seen a beautiful construction, named ADAM74. Inspired by the ADM-3A terminal, ADAM74 aims to suggest the era "around 1974". It contains a TFT module, simple parallel interface for connecting to the 8bit computer, and a Teensy board. Source code, documentation, Gerber, and SVG for the acrylic stand are available on GitHub.

ADAM74 (photo by EngineersNeedArt)

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Martin Maly

Martin Maly

Programmer, journalist, writer and electronic hobbyist. Vintage CPU lover. Creating new computers with the spirit of 80's.