Jump to content

Old school command line scrolling.

Recommended Posts



i just posted about the movie war games. But this is a related question. 

im interested in the old command line interface, and in particular scrolling. Ideally i would love the set up in war games. 

in war games there is a black and white text didplay on a crt monitor. The cursor, i dont know if it blinks but it is like a square or rectangle. As you type the cursor moves to the right revealing text. And when you press enter the cursor moves to the right revealing text. 

im interested in this in general. 

i know on my moderm mac i can get to a unix shell command line. But it behaves differently. Like when i enter ls i think thats the list command. All the files appear at once. 

i also have a mac se with a version of ms-dos called soft pc. It is actually really nice. The cursor is an underscore its different than war games but if i type in like lets say dir at the command line prompt the text will scroll. I havent used it in awhile but it is nice. 

but ideally id like the set up in war games. Its a slightly different thing. When you enter text the cursor moves to the right revealing text? I think if you entered a command the effect to me is like the cursor moves to the right revealing text? I dont know if older systems made a noise when scrolling? 

i dont know how that type of set up would display lets say a table of data or file system but id love to see it. 

id love to learn more about text scrolling on the command line. I googled but the articles i saw are referring to something else. 

but i wondered if any older programers computer enthusists know what im talking about. 

and if possible could help me to try to emulate a system that would allow me to do this? 

ive also seen teletype like in rambo which i see as like an online data or information scrolling on my screen as ive described? 

anyway any thoughts ideas or experience with what im describing or point me in a direction as far as computer operating system set up to try and emulate this would be great. Or even anyone who remembers this phenomenon, your memories of different scrolling on systems youve worked on would be great to. 

thanks in advance


Link to comment
Share on other sites

It only looks like it appears all at once because it's so fast.  In the early 1980s you could see each line display and when it got to the bottom of the monitor you could see scrolling.  As computers got faster and faster the lines and scrolling gradually got faster and faster until it seemed instantaneous.  The line interface goes back to teleprinter TTY terminal interfaces.  As far as beeping, I know some old computers beeped when you typed, maybe some beeped when displaying output?


Maybe in Dosbox you can slow down the cpu speed enough so you can see it.

Edited by mr_me
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The emulator looks nice and i might check it out. 

but i really want a real crt monitor. I like old tech especially well built hardware. And i really want like in war games a black and white display. Its a beautiful monitor in war games, to me. 

i dont want the green phospor screen monitor? There nice but not exactly what i want.

 I would love a operating system thats scrolls like war games. 

a couple of things. I specifaclly like the scrolling in war games. One thing the cursor behavior maybe its not referred to as scrolling. Its what i call it. 

but its the way the text displays and interacts with the cursor? 

i dont know if youve seen war games you can look up a scene on youtube. Where the main character David is in his bedroom. 

but its what id like to emulate. The closest i got is on my mac se running soft pc and a version of ms-dos. 


but its a slightly different thing. I havent used it in a while but i know it behaves differently. Its the closest ive come. And its really nice. 

Edited by James app-2008
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot of this behavior of computers in movies and TV (especially back then) was simply a program written for the purpose and running to present a cool display. Most actors from that era couldn't type their name let alone the lines required by the script. Hell, it's that way now too. You can't stop filming every time some actor types the wrong thing. I remember a TV show called Whiz Kids that had kids typing at a very fast pace to show how proficient they were. I think it was Compute! magazine that published a program to mimic this behavior. Once you started the program, you didn't even have to push a single key for various commands and responses to be displayed on the screen. I think it may have even clicked the speaker with each character displayed. Changing the cursor character used to be a fairly trivial thing on older computers like the Apple II. I don't recall any home computers that acted like the one in Wargames, but then he was using a terminal program to access WOPR.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like @mr_me mentioned, every computer “scrolls like wargames”, it’s just most are so fast that it looks like everything appears instantly. And there isn’t some program that you can use to make text slow, because I believe you are the first person in history to say “I wanna make text scroll slower.”


Even the IMSAI 8080, the computer in the movie, wouldn’t have scrolled text so slowly, but it’s the slow modem that he’s using to connect his computer to the WOPR or the school’s computer (probably 110 or 300 baud) that’s making the text so slow. 

I assume some Linux distros would allow you to use an external terminal at a customizable baud rate, in which case you could connect a terminal at 300 baud and the text will move like molasses. Or you could just get an old computer and a modem and dial up some BBSes. 

White phosphor monitors are rare, most are green or amber. Your best bet is either acquiring a computer that came included with such monitor (early PET, TRS-80, etc) or using a black and white TV set. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just curious but on what type of computer, and operating system are you trying to get that WarGames feel from anyway?


Sounds like you're looking for something like this terminal in the pic that can connect to a serial port and use a command line console.




Dead easy on Linux and MacOS since they're both UNIX like...





  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...