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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
intelligent terminal
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hardware (or "smart terminal", "programmable terminal") A
terminal that often contains not only a keyboard and screen,
but also comes with a disk drive and printer, so it can
perform limited processing tasks when not communicating
directly with the central computer. Some can be programmed by
the user to perform many basic tasks, including both
arithmetic and logic operations. In some cases, when the user
enters data, the data will be checked for errors and some
type of report will be produced. In addition, the valid data
that is entered may be stored on the disk, it will be
transmitted over communication lines to the central computer.
An intelligent terminal may have enough computing capability
to draw graphics or to offload some kind of front-end
processing from the computer it talks to.
The development of workstations and personal computers has
made this term and the product it describes semi-obsolescent,
but one may still hear variants of the phrase "act like a
smart terminal" used to describe the behaviour of workstations
or PCs with respect to programs that execute almost entirely
out of a remote server's storage, using said devices as
The term once meant any terminal with an addressable cursor;
the opposite of a glass tty. Today, a terminal with merely
an addressable cursor, but with none of the more-powerful
features mentioned above, is called a dumb terminal.
There is a classic quote from Rob Pike (inventor of the blit
terminal): "A smart terminal is not a smart*ass* terminal, but
rather a terminal you can educate". This illustrates a common
design problem: The attempt to make peripherals (or anything
else) intelligent sometimes results in finicky, rigid "special
features" that become just so much dead weight if you try to
use the device in any way the designer didn't anticipate.
Flexibility and programmability, on the other hand, are
*really* smart.