How to use VT100 emulator (video)

Chris DavisSetup

You might set up your newly built (or newly upgraded) Altair-Duino with a VGA monitor and keyboard, switch on the power, see the copyright statement on the screen, and then be confused as to why the keyboard is not responding!

Well, computers from the mid-70s we quite a bit different than computers today (or even a few years later.) When you power on the computer, nothing is running. No OS, no machine language monitor, no version of BASIC – absolutely nothing.

The process below shows you how to get the Altair-Duino to use the VT100 emulator. This is quite a bit different than the original Altair, which would require a good 10 to 30 minutes of toggling in a bootloader. At least this process is only a few seconds!

The following procedure assumes you have an SD card inserted, and the SD card contains STORAGE.DAT with the correct profiles set up. You can download the contents of the SD card at this link.

  1. Plug a VGA monitor and PS2 keyboard into the Altair-Duino. Power on the monitor.
  2. Connect a power supply to the Altair-Duino.
  3. Set front panel data switches to “1” (switch 0 up, all other switches down).
  4. Raise (and hold) DEPOSIT up. (This makes the Altair-Duino load profile #1 from the SD card on power-up.)
  5. Turn on Altair-Duino.
  6. Release DEPOSIT.

You should see “ASCII Video Terminal Version 1.3 Copyright 2014 Geoff Graham” on the VGA monitor.  With all switches down, press AUX1 down.  On the monitor, you should see a directory of options for front panel switches.

Here’s a video with more details:

YouTube video
NOTE: This video references the PS2 keyboard. Current kits now use a USB keyboard.