when was memory "above" the terminal screen invented?

jim stephens jwsmail at jwsss.com
Mon Dec 14 04:50:42 CST 2020

On 12/13/2020 10:10 PM, Frank McConnell via cctalk wrote:
> On Dec 13, 2020, at 18:37, Stan Sieler wrote:
>> Hi,
>> First, apologies if I asked this years ago (I've searched my archives, no
>> hits :)
>> When was the concept of memory "above" the screen invented for terminals?
>> I.e., previously displayed data that had scrolled up and off the screen ...
>> but could be retrieved (usually by scrolling down).
> Printing terminals.  Just pull the printed paper up from where it has fallen
> behind your Teletype or DECwriter or Silent 700 or Terminet.
I know you're trying to be cute because I believe the "page" wasn't 
paper the OP was referring to.

However the Microdata Scribe, which was done by an engineer who later 
worked on a dot matrix printer for Data Products and manufactured in 
Irvine had reverse paper motion.

You could align the paper, set the page size which would logically fix 
the printer, and then control the motion over the page as needed.

It could print anywhere on the 14" platten w/o extra motion, so it was 
able to quickly move around the page doing either graphic printing, line 
printing which emulated a plotter, or print characters as needed.

Not related to scroll back or paper motion it had a really powerful font 
support mechanism.  All of this was done when memory became cheap and 
reliable enough that you could have more than just display memory and a 
smidge of ram for a display processor in the terminal.

I didn't see the functions of the Scribe duplicated in any other printer 
in the price or performance class.

The other thing that is nice about the printer is that it used the same 
OEM head that the TI 8xx series printers did, so you could buy them very 
economically in the day, the ribbons were the same and cheap.  Today 
they still are among the most common NOS around for such parts.

I bought the optional keyboard, so I had a KSR printing terminal and 
could scroll back with the printer.  It was essentially equivalent to 
the DEC LA printers, but the scroll back could be done from the keyboard.
>> (Sometimes called "scrollback", or "offscreen memory".)
>> (BTW, I'm talking about terminal-local memory, not a scrollback implemented
>> by the computer to which the terminal is connected.)
>> The HP 2640A, 1974, had (IIRC) several pages of memory available ... the
>> user could scroll
>> backwards and see what had been on the screen before it scrolled off (as
>> long
>> as it hadn't been lost by having too much subsequent output).
> That was, kind of sort of, the on-screen effect, but it could vary.
> Between 1977 and 1981 I used 2640B terminals which had been purchased
> without many options.  They didn’t have lower case characters (these
> were displayed as upper case characters, and sometimes hilarity ensued),
> and they had about 1KB of display memory.
> Now you may be thinking that 24 rows of 80 characters is more like 1920
> characters which would require a little more than 1KB of display memory,
> and you would be correct.
> The tricky bit about the 264X display controller is that it is reading
> display memory as a linked list of fixed-size short chunks (under 20
> bytes) and the last one has an end-of-line indicator in it (it is an
> ASCII terminal and byte values 0x80-0xff are interpreted as display
> controls).  So a short line of text doesn’t take up as much display
> memory.  Which means you can have more of them in display memory.
> So your 2640B with 1KB display memory has scrollback if most lines that
> you have in memory are short, but can only fill its screen halfway if
> all lines are long.
>> I suspect the DEV VT100, 1978, had it, but I can't find definitive proof
>> online (sure, I can find VT102 emulators that have scrollback, but reading
>> an old VT102 manual doesn't make it clear that it has it.)
> I think the VT100 did not.  I’m not sure it matters.  The 2640A would
> predate the VT100.
> I wonder if the termcap da and/or db flags would turn up some older
> terminals with the same feature.  (These indicate display above and
> display below.)
> -Frank McConnell

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