which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

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Y888099
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which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:44 pm

Who did manufacture the best X window system terminal ever in 90s?

  • Tektronix : XP200s? XP400s?
  • HP/Agilent: Envizex? Entria?
  • ... ?
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby robespierre » Sat Apr 15, 2017 3:02 pm

SparcStation Classic X? NC900?
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Sat Apr 15, 2017 3:08 pm

robespierre wrote:SparcStation Classic X


is this one? it looks more like a mini-worktation than an x11-terminal.


robespierre wrote:NC900?


NCD? impressive highlights
  • Local Netscape Navigator browser
  • 24-bit color applications
  • Java-v1.1 virtual machine (included in the local Netscape NC Navigator on the NC900)
  • X11 and legacy system access
It requires NCBridge.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby josehill » Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:21 pm

We used various NCD terminals at GlobalMegaPharmaCo in the mid-90s, though I don't recall the specific models. They were quite good at what they did. Wyse also made some good X terminals. As an aside, NCD eventually purchased the TekXPress X-terminals product line from Tektronix.

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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby smj » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:58 pm

NCDs were practically the reference standard in the circles I moved in. The color units from Tektronix were pretty high end when I first touched them in 1991 (or, we only got high-end models - too long ago, flip a coin). Those same basic NCDs (NCD-19b, -16c, etc - 68k-based models, before any MIPS or 88k models) were still in use around 1994 for sales reps and admins, but 486 PCs running UNIX+X11 or Windows 3.1 already seemed like the writing on the wall based on price/performance unless you needed RISC horsepower, 3D, etc.

This was all pre-Java, pre-thin client (meaning before Larry Ellison was shouting about "network computers" in ~1996 as if he'd invented something new). For me, a monochrome 68k-based NCD is the reference point for that class of product.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:55 am

smj wrote:NCD-19b, -16c, etc - 68k-based models, before any MIPS or 88k models)


Weren't 68Ks (020? 030? 040?) a bit slow? Never seen any 88K model, what does it run? VxWorks?


HP Envizex, here it is a video, it shows a unit booting up (ENWARE X-station software. Release 7.0, maybe)
What about HP-Agilent Entria? Any feedback? I know they exist, never seen/tried one.

p.s. the brochure says HP ENVIZEX "p" series and ENTRIA"Plus" users who purchase an optional MPEG accelerator card can now view full-speed MPEG videos with synchronized CD-quality audio.
Last edited by Y888099 on Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby miod » Mon Apr 17, 2017 4:44 am

Y888099 wrote:
smj wrote:NCD-19b, -16c, etc - 68k-based models, before any MIPS or 88k models)


Weren't 68Ks (020? 030? 040?) a bit slot? Never seen any 88K model, what does it run? VxWorks?

NCD X terminals run an in-house NCD development featuring a BSD TCP/IP stack for Ethernet and a token ring stack from Thursby Software Systems (TSSnet).

I am not aware of VmWorks ever being ported to 88k systems.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:56 pm

Interesting. Network Computing Devices was a company founded in 1987 in Mountain View, CA, and when it closed it was headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. At some point NCD purchased PCXware, which made an X Window System for Microsoft Windows, and the TekXPress X-terminals line from Tektronix. NCD ceased operations in 2004, but a few of the company's employees have set up a new company, ThinPATH Systems, to provide former NCD customers and others with service, support and products.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby kramlq » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:42 am

Y888099 wrote:
smj wrote:NCD-19b, -16c, etc - 68k-based models, before any MIPS or 88k models)


Weren't 68Ks (020? 030? 040?) a bit slow? Never seen any 88K model, what does it run? VxWorks?


HP Envizex, here it is a video, it shows a unit booting up (ENWARE X-station software. Release 7.0, maybe)
What about HP-Agilent Entria? Any feedback? I know they exist, never seen/tried one.

p.s. the brochure says HP ENVIZEX "p" series and ENTRIA"Plus" users who purchase an optional MPEG accelerator card can now view full-speed MPEG videos with synchronized CD-quality audio.


I used an Envizex with a 19" monitor for software development/admin in my first real job. Great system, and cost a lot of money at the time - as much as the standalone HP 712 workstations the group next to ours had I was told. I remember one of my co-workers even mentioned it had a SCSI bus and could attach a floppy locally for example, but I never had any external SCSI peripherals to test and see if this was true or not.

We also had loads of NCD 14" and I think a few Tektronik as well - Probably 100 in total. They were used for running interfaces to applications on servers that controlled production line machinery (laser etches, zebra/IPL printers, RF programming stations, ASRS, box packing machines etc) - mostly running quite simple Motif or menu based apps, so graphics performance was never a huge requirement, and they all did the job quite nicely. Memory was sometimes an issue with the odd program (e.g. in TCL/TK). But most importantly for us, bringing a new XTerm online was very simple - edit a few config files on the server, and set a few entries in the XTerminal's menu system, compared with the hours needed to install and configure Windows on a PC.

I think the M88k was a very common CPU used in X terminals from NCD/Tektronik in the 90s. The Envizex was i960 based. The later Envizex II was MIPS R4300 based - almost like a MIPS based PC without a disk, and a price to match.

The Sun XTerminal 1 should also get an honourable mention in any thread about Xterms :-)

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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby kjaer » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:36 am

Y888099 wrote:
smj wrote:NCD-19b, -16c, etc - 68k-based models, before any MIPS or 88k models)


Weren't 68Ks (020? 030? 040?) a bit slow?


What is it you think they needed to be "fast" to do, exactly? It doesn't take much horsepower to run a 1-bit X server. Or a color one, for that matter.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:25 am

kjaer wrote:What is it you think they needed to be "fast" to do, exactly?


By judging *how slow* is X11 on A/UX 68K, and comparing the behavior of an xp217c (tektronix/tekxware v7), which has a MIPS3 @ 20Mhz, with an xp417c(tektronix/tekxware v8.1), which has a MIPS3 @ 40Mhz, there are so many differences in 20Mhz that you feel more comfortable on xp400s, especially if you want to have a native Netscape browser with Java v1 (you need NCBridge)

kjaer wrote:1-bit X server


XPs are pseudo color.
They do a lot of tcp/ip connections.
Last edited by Y888099 on Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby kjaer » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:04 pm

What a totally bogus comparison. Never mind that the A/UX machine is also doing all the unix stuff as well as running the X server, and could be "slow" for all kinds of reasons (MacX vs. the dedicated server, speed of the video board, etc.), you might as well rag on A/UX for not supporting X11R5 or having a compositing window manager either.

I'm not arguing that the xp217c isn't a better choice today (not least being almost five years newer tech during a time of very busy progress), I'm arguing that a 68k is perfectly capable of running a totally serviceable standalone X terminal. Lots of people were happily using scavenged Sun 3/50s as X terminals as late as 1996, and the primary limitation on those was never the 16 MHz 68020 (it was the 4 MB RAM limit). As you noted, the advent of the WWW changed what people expected from an X terminal (for about three instants before it made them completely obsolete). The old stuff is still just as capable of doing the old jobs as it ever was.
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby kramlq » Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:45 pm

kjaer wrote:I'm not arguing that the xp217c isn't a better choice today (not least being almost five years newer tech during a time of very busy progress), I'm arguing that a 68k is perfectly capable of running a totally serviceable standalone X terminal. Lots of people were happily using scavenged Sun 3/50s as X terminals as late as 1996, and the primary limitation on those was never the 16 MHz 68020 (it was the 4 MB RAM limit). As you noted, the advent of the WWW changed what people expected from an X terminal (for about three instants before it made them completely obsolete). The old stuff is still just as capable of doing the old jobs as it ever was.

We'd have loved XTerms to stay using slower M68k/M88k rather than the newer 133MHz MIPS R4300i etc., but then again, the company I was working for was Motorola :)

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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby Y888099 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:25 am

kramlq wrote:M88k


Never seen one. According to its manuals it's a superscalar RISC. I assume it's faster than 68k. But I wonder how comfortable was the software if there wasn't WxWorks (not existing for 88k, right?) under the hood.

kramlq wrote:We'd have loved XTerms to stay using slower M68k rather than the newer 133MHz MIPS R4300i


Why? For the software? Talking about HP products, the old Enware v7.1 supports i960-based terminals, including the HP Envizex pSERIES, which was the top gun, with the fastest CPU available and maximized ram. The next step of HP software was Netstation Version 8, supporting MIPSR4300-based terminals.

Talking about CPUs, no doubts MIPS R4300s are faster than i960s, but Enware v7.1 is more comfortable than Netstation Version 8, more optimized, it eats less ram, and it adds less whistles and bells (e.g. HPUX CDE-like objects)

kramlq wrote:the company I was working for was Motorola


Have you ever seen IDP products? I read a brochure by Motorola and Motorola DNA, it talks about a development board with expansion cards. One of these cards is a video display unit, basically an interface to VGA, PS/2 mouse and keyboard. A second card is a 10MBit/sec lan adapter. The rom is composed by two UV-ROM of 512Kbyte each. The total memory was expandable up to 8MByte on the motherboard, plus other 16MByte on a dedicated memory-expansion card. And the built-in firmware (like in ColdFire-v1..v2 boards by Axiom) was able to tftpboot.

So, I wonder ... have ever been used for prototyping Xterminals?
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Re: which was the best X11(R4)-terminal?

Unread postby josehill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:56 am

FWIW, I recall being very pleased with the performance of the old White Pine eXodus X Server software on 68k Macs running MacOS. (Mostly 68030s and 68040s, IIRC)


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