Back to the Terminal


Bill Kendrick

Linux Users' Group of Davis, April 17, 2017


Before computers, there were teletypewriters (teletypes). In the 1920s, Telex, a global teletype network for businesses, was established. The first computers used these teletypes, later moving to text terminal screens (CRTs) -- think MSDOS, the Unix command-line, old microcomputers (via TV sets or monitors), etc.

Trivia: "the legacy of teletypewriters lives on in the designations for serial ports and consoles (i.e., the text-only display mode), which have the prefix tty, such as /dev/tty5 for the fifth virtual console."

Text editors

Dive deeper

Text manipulaton and analysis tools, such as grep, sed, awk, the Perl language, and much more, while created long ago, are still helpful today!

$ grep teletype | sed -e "s/teletype/TELETYPE/g"
Before computers, there were [TELETYPEwriters]( (TELETYPEs).
In the 1920s, Telex, a global TELETYPE network for businesses, was
established.  The first computers used these TELETYPEs, later moving
Trivia: "the legacy of TELETYPEwriters lives on in the designations for

Web browsing: Links

Links is an interactive terminal-based web browser.

Linux Users' Group of Davis (LUGOD): Directions to Explorit Nature C (p1 of 10)
     l  i  n  u  x  -  u  s  e  r  s  -  g  r  o u p - o f - d a v i s
        L        U       G       O       D
       Next Meeting:                          Latest News:       Page last
     April 17: Back to Next Installfest:  Feb. 10: AlphaGo and    updated:
       the Terminal           TBD              Kodi talks      2009 Jul 14

                Events            Directions to the Explorit Nature Center
      - Next                        -------------------------------------
      - Upcoming
      - Unscheduled               [IMG]Printer-Friendly Version
      - Past
      - Presentations               -------------------------------------
      - Wishlist
      - Directions                   Explorit Nature Center (5th Street)
      - Facilities                Photo from, by Jason Aller
      Demos                       The Explorit Nature Center (previously
      Photos                      called the "Mace Ranch Branch") of the
               Services           Explorit Science Center in Davis is
      Jobs                        located on 5th Street, east of

IRC Chat

Internet Relay Chat is a client/server based protocol that provides text-based chat rooms ("channels"), as well as direct private messaging. Users connect to a server (and servers can be connected to each other, to expand an IRC network) using an IRC client.

As an example, LUGOD has its own channel, "#lugod", registered on the freenode IRC network.

Along with graphical clients (such as Konversation and Adium), and even web-based interfaces to IRC, there are of course text-based clients. (Not surprising since IRC was created in 1988!)

*** You are now talking to channel #lugod
> Hello LUGOD. Screenshot time!
*** Topic for #lugod: Linux Users' Group of Davis, CA ( // Ne
+See also: // Always looking for speaker
*** #lugod aidian!~aidian@lugod/officers/sys 1491110674
 everyone ruuuuuun
[1] 22:40 kendrick2 (+i) on #lugod (+nt) * type /help for help                 


Slack, the popular "cloud-based team collaboration software" launched in 2013, was originally based on an IRC backend, and offers many IRC-like features (channels, private messages). It's even possible to use an IRC client to connect to Slack!

Instant Messaging and Social Media


Bitlbee brings Instant Messengers and more to your IRC clients. Among others, it supports:


Rainbowstream is a terminal-based Twitter client, allowing you to do almost anything a GUI app can:

More web access and file sharing


googler is a command-line tool for accessing Google Search, Google Site Search, and Google News from the terminal.

$ export BROWSER=links ; googler -n 2 lugod

1 Linux Users' Group of Davis (LUGOD): Serving the Sacramento ...
Davis. Meetings 3rd Mondays, social gatherings 1st Tuesdays, mailing lists, installfests, special events.

2 LUGOD - Davis - LocalWiki
Apr 15, 2008 - LUGOD stands for Linux Users' Group of Davis. From their website, they are "a 501(c)(7) non-profit computer club serving Davis, California and ...

googler (? for help)


curl a non-interactive command-line tool (as well as library, used within other programs!) for transferring data with URLs.

$ curl > lugod.html
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current
Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
100 39489 0 39489 0 0 28328 0 --:--:-- 0:00:01 --:--:-- 28327


GNU Wget is

$ wget
--2017-04-05 22:21:37--
Resolving (
Connecting to (||:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: unspecified [text/html]
Saving to: 'index.html'
[ <=> ] 39,463 26.0KB/s in 1.5s
2017-04-05 22:21:39 (26.0 KB/s) - ‘index.html’ saved [39463]


DropBox, the popular file hosting and collaboration service.


rTorrent is a "bittorrent" client (which also has a daemon mode, and includes LibTorrent library). "BitTorrent" is a communications protocol of peer-to-peer file sharing ("P2P") which is used to distribute data and electronic files over the Internet, in which each part of a file downloaded by a user is transferred to other users.

termbin is a command-line 'pastebin' service. "pastebin" services are websites that host text-based content which can be accessed by a short URL meant for sharing online. In software development communities, for example, programmers use them to post long chunks of text (e.g., a log file, or copious output from a failed build) -- especially in situations where a large paste would be obnoxious (e.g., in an IRC channel!)

Send data to's port 9999, e.g. by sending content to the Unix "netcat" (nc) tool's stdin, and it will be stored, and a short URL will be returned. e.g.:

$ echo "just testing!" | nc 9999



"All mail clients suck. This one just sucks less."

Mutt is a terminal-based email client.

i:Exit  -:PrevPg  <Space>:NextPg v:View Attachm.  d:Del  r:Reply  j:Next ?:Help 
 83   L Mar 23 Nick Schmalenbe   `->Re: [vox] [LUGOD] Library
 84   L Mar 27 Shwaine             `->
 85   L Jun 22 Tony Cratz      [vox-tech] Possible for future installfest       
 86   L Jun 26 Cory Carpenter  Re:  Quick sponsorship question...
 87   L Jun 26 Cory Carpenter  `=>Re: [vox-officers] Quick sponsorship question.
---Mutt: =in-vox [Msgs:189 New:1 Flag:1 Inc:1 1.2M]---(threads/last-date-receive
Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2008 18:14:28 -0700
From: Tony Cratz <XXXXX@XXXXXXX>
Subject: [vox-tech] Possible for future installfest
Reply-To: "lugod's technical discussion forum" <>


        At the last regular meeting it was suggested we try to
        get more people to show to the install fest by not only
        helping with installs but also having a topic we cover
        which might help others learn about Linux.

        One of the common issues which always come up is the
        desire to connect a Linux system to the home network
        and be able to share files with Microsoft systems.
-  L- 85/189: Tony Cratz             [vox-tech] Possible for future in -- (52%) 

And more

Terminal multiplexers

Need to do more than one thing at a time?

If you're using a terminal application in a GUI, you can just open multiple terminals; or if it supports 'tabs', open multiple tabs; or do both!

If you're using virtual terminals (i.e., no GUI at all) on Linux, you can switch between them (e.g., [Alt]+[F1], [Alt]+[F2], etc.)

But if you're connected remotely, or need to do more complex actions (scroll back, copy/paste within or between terminal sessions, etc.), you'll want a terminal multiplexer.

Creating text documents


Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool. "The idea is that a Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions." Enter text like so:

# Title
## Header
Here is my text.

and it produces:



Here is my text.

Check it out

This presentations markdown source (created using Vim text editor):, and HTML version back-to-terminal.html.


Pandoc is a "swiss-army knife" for text formats.

It converts from:

To all those, plus

Check it out

This presentation's markdown, converted to PDF using Pandoc: back-to-terminal.pdf.


Long before MicroSoft Excel, there was the original spreadsheet: "Visicalc". originally released in 1981 for the Apple II personal computer (64KB RAM, 8-bit 6502 CPU, 40x25 or 80x25 text screen). So of course there are terminal-based spreadsheet available today!

sc - spreadsheet calculator

Based on vc, written in 1982 by James Gosling (creator of the Java language), sc was also created in the 1980s!

C12 (10 2 0) [@min(C1:C8)]

        A         B         C         D         E         F         G     
  0    Date     Topic   Attendees
  1 1999.01.27   N/A         11.00
  2 1999.02.09   N/A         15.00
  3 1999.03.16 BoboBot       15.00
  4 1999.04.05   N/A         14.00
  5 1999.05.03 BSD Unix      22.00
  6 1999.05.18 VA Linux      21.00
  7 1999.05.31Linux @ UC     23.00
  8 1999.06.28Shell BASI     10.00
 10                  Avg     16.38
 11                  Max     23.00
 12                  Min     10.00

Motivation for this talk (why me, why now?)

"Get work done" via my Atari 8-bit home computer!

From the 1980s:

From modern times:

googler via Atari

Do even more!

Check out Command-Line Application Roundup from Linux Journal magazine, issue 198 (October 2010), or search the web (via Links!?) or ask around (LUGOD's IRC channel and mailing lists!?) for even more!