by Darius Kazemi, November 7 2019

In 2019 I'm reading one RFC a day in chronological order starting from the very first one. More on this project here. There is a table of contents for all my RFC posts.

Graphics terminals

RFC-311 is titled “New Console Attachments to the UCSB Host”. It's authored by Roland F. Bryan of UCSB Computer Research Laboratory and dated Februrary 29th, 1972.

The technical content

UCSB has a new system in place that allows their IBM 360-75 computer to connect to peripherals that are not strictly IBM standard. These include a Tektronix 4002 Graphic Computer Terminal and a mysterious device calle dthe General Purpose Graphics Terminal, reportedly developed by the University of Iowa for the National Institutes of Health.

Further reading

The VintageTek Museum (my favorite Portland-area tourist destination!) has a lot of material on the 4002 Graphic Computer Terminal series. This news/PR item (PDF) discusses the new graphics terminal, and they host a twelve page introductory brochure for the 4002 from 1970. A nerdy detail: the 4002A differed from the 4002 by replacing internal diode matrix memory with a ROM. There are lots of photos of the 4002 series at the Terminals Wiki.

Meanwhile, I can find very very little on the General Purpose Graphics Terminal except for some references in related documents, like the 1972 annual report of the NIH Biotechnology Resources Branch (PDF) and the 1973 annual report of the same (PDF). My guess is that this was a highly specialized terminal that was never available to the consumer market, which would make sense if it were NIH-branded and built “for use in Bio-Medical applications” as this RFC suggests. I cannot find anything linking the University of Iowa with this device, but multiple University of Minnesota documents mention the GPGT so maybe the author got the wrong university when he was giving credit for its invention.

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About me

I'm Darius Kazemi. I'm an independent technologist and artist. I do a lot of work on the decentralized web with ActivityPub, including a Node.js reference implementation, an RSS-to-ActivityPub converter, and a fork of Mastodon, called Hometown. You can support my work via my Patreon.