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Tektronix 4014 Vector Graphics Terminal

posted Nov 5, 2009, 5:04 AM by Troy Cheek

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Another interesting message thread from the Atari Age forum...

I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of any Atari software specifically designed to display graphics on a Tektronix 4014 terminal.

For the uninitiated, this terminal was capable of 4096x4096 monochrome vector graphics displays. It had a 9600 bps serial connection, and displayed graphics & alphanumeric info via standard ASCII escape sequences.

Most of the functionality of the terminal's hardware is currently still available through standard xterm on UNIX/Linux,IXixish systems, when Tektronix mode is enabled.

Any modern xterm window on Linux can have Tektronix mode enabled. On a PC, the typical windowed size is 1024x768 for the Tektronix emulation, since few users can run above 1600x1200, on our /Modern/ systems...ha.

I recently thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if you could output from your emulator to an xterm Tektronix graphics display window, to achieve a secondary, very high resolution display?". Of course you could just plug your hardware 850 into your Linux or UNIX box, too, with such a setup.

This makes a lot of sense, since it is just sending esc codes, so the Atari could handle it, with no problem... just like sending escape codes to a printer. The vector point info is just tons of XY co-ordinates in a *.tek file format. xterm interprets this ASCII data to generate raster-based images from the supplied datastream or textfile.

The closest Atari peripheral would probably be the Atari 1020 plotter, so I'm sure that a lot of the graphics algorithms for that device could be easily tweaked for graphics demos on the Tektronix.

I've found several manuals, & code samples in Pascal, Fortran, & *.tek format. I've been considering putting together a document that de-obfuscates the magic needed to interpret the XY tables in the Tektronix manuals. (They took every possible step to make the information as clear as mud. lol.).

The main mode-changing codes are easily available, but the actual co-ordinate plotting codes require some considerable thought, to translate from their stated table-form. Due to the vintage of the 4014, I would imagine that you need to be tripping to easily zen out their method. lol.

The downside to the Tektronix mode is that animation requires sending full screen-clears (causing a full-screen flash). It would be very good for static graphics displays, or for menu-based selection, though.

Animation without screen-clears is possible though, for things like this Lines Demo.

Anyone interested in this, or have any experience with Tektronix terminals?

Read the whole thread: The Atari & the Tektronix 4014 Vector Graphics Terminal Perfect Together? Any Atari software for this terminal?