By Mark Nobes, chief editor

Digital Equipment Corporation was founded in 1957 and was based in Maynard, Massachusetts. The company became defunct in 1998 and was acquired by Compaq, who then merged with Hewlett-Packard in May 2002.

The first free-standing CRT computer terminal by DEC was the VT05 which was launched in 1970 - this is not a computer, but merely a text terminal with enough ROM to connect it to a server computer which actually ran the programs. 

DEC VT05 - CRT Computer Terminal (1970) by Digital Equipment Corporation
The eye-catching DEC VT05 - photo by Autopilot

It looked incredibly futuristic at the time, and, no doubt, featured in one or two sci-fi movies. Personally, I find the 1970s and 1980s technology much more appealing to the eye than from the 90s onwards when everything, in general, started to look rather bland and uninspiring.

The VT05 featured no fancy editing functions (bold, underline, reverse scrolling etc.) that we take for granted in word processors today, so it wouldn't have been easy to use. The 5x7 dot matrix display was only in upper case using with 20 rows by 72 columns. Lower case could be added using coding, but was rarely used.

The unit could also be used as a NTSC video monitor for cameras and recorders and included video input.


The VT05 was replaced with the VT50 in July 1974. However, little over a year later this was superceded by the VT52. The VT50 displayed just 12 rows of text (80 columns) with double-spacing and was still in uppercase only. It used the same cabinet as the VT52 (below).

DEC VT50 Video Terminal Users Manual from 1975


The much improved VT52 must have been a dream come true for 70s typists! It featured the luxury of lowercase text, bi-directional scrolling and WYSIWYG editing. The display featured 24 rows by 80 columns with support for all 95 ASCII characters and an additional 32 graphics characters and an expanded control character system.
DEC VT52 terminal (1975) produced by Digital Equipment Corporation
DEC VT52 Terminal. Creative Commons photo by ClickRick


Further models included the VT55, VT61 and VT62. This advert for the VT55 Graphics Terminal featured in Computerworld on October 29th 1975. $2495 was considered a low price for such technology in the mid 1970s, but this price is more than you would pay for a decent almost 40 years later!
DEC VT55 Graphics Terminal advert (1975) from Computerworld


The DEC VT100 was the first mass-produced terminal to feature graphic renditions - blinking, bolding, underlining and invert video where the background and text colours are inverted. The user could choose from an 80 or 132 column display (luxury in the late 70s). In 1983, the VT100 was replaced by the superior VT200 series.
DEC VT100 computer terminal (1978)
The DEC VT100 was launched in August 1978. Creative Commons photo by Jason Scott

DEC VT101 ASCII terminal (late 1970s) by Digital Equipment Corporation
DEC VT101 - photo by Dave Fischer


The VT220 was part of the 200 series and produced between 1983 and 1987. Improvements over the VT100 included a much quicker microprocessor, a more modern, detachable keyboard and a less bulky monitor. Other models in the series were the VT240 and 241.
A 1980's DEC VT220 Video Terminal with LK201 Keyboard
DEC VT220 Video Terminal with LK201 detachable keyboard. Photo by Adamantios

Further Models:

Between 1987-1990 DEC produced the VT330, VT340, VT340+, VT420

In 1990 the VT500 series was introduced
which included the VT510, VT520 and VT525