Salvaged from the Wild: Resurrect a DT80 Terminal

When Datamedia announced their new DT80 terminal as a VT100 killer in 1979, they were so confident in its reliability that they offered a full one-year warranty. Now, decades later, that trust is being challenged again after [RingingResonance] fished such a terminal out of a creek near a former illegal dump site. Unsure of what to expect from the mud-ridden artifact, his journey to slowly bring the device back to life began.

Brings new meaning to the term “rooted”

Considering the layers of mud and roots already growing all over the main map, one can only guess how long the terminal has actually been there. But clearing it of all that was just the start: some components were missing, others turned out to be broken, including some of the ROMs, which [RingingResonance] speculates may have been caused by lightning which determined the fate of the DT80 in the first place.

That’s when the adventure really began, digging deep into the inner life of the terminal, eventually writing a debugger and its own firmware. This code, along with all the other research, notes, and links to many other images can be found in the GitHub repository, and is definitely worth checking out if you’re into old tech.

Despite the claimed superiority of the DT80, the VT100 prevailed and is the terminal that history remembers – and emulates, whether handheld or a complete look-alike. But this fall into oblivion was also part of [RingingResonance]’s motivation to keep moving forward in restoring the DT80. Somebody had to do it. So if you happen to have something to contribute to his efforts or share with him, we’re sure he’ll appreciate you reaching out.

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