We had typewriters. We were communicating using Morse code. One fine day, someone had an idea to connect a typewriter to an existing network of communication wires. And the teletypewriter was born!
Image: Teletype teleprinters in use during World War II, Source:Wikipedia
Teletypes removed the need for a human to know Morse code, which improved message typing speed and delivery time. In this 1932 video, the narrator describes how a teletype takes only a matter of seconds to deliver a message from London to Edinburgh. A stark contrast to the earlier ETA of one week — the time taken by a mail coach to undertake the same 600 km journey.
Meanwhile, computers were becoming powerful enough to interact with users in real-time. Another fine day, someone had an idea to repurpose a teletype, connect it to a modem, and use it as a remote interface to early computers. This was the origin of the command-line interface!
Among these teletypes were the Friden Flexowriter and the Teletype Model 33. Users typed commands after a prompt character was printed on paper. After they were satisfied with the input, they would press Enter which would then send the command to the computer. And finally the output from the computer would be printed on paper again.
Teletypes were continued to be used as terminals to computers, until video displays came into the picture during the late 1970s. Video terminals quickly became popular input-output devices for computers after the manufacturers moved to a set of common standards.
Today, physical teletypes and video terminals are obsolete. We instead have terminal emulators, which are software simulations of the real thing. But, have modern terminal emulators borrowed any features from the OG metal beasts?