What Are Computer Terminals?

By: Dusty Arlia
Published on September 27, 2011
Last Updated on Friday, July 17, 2015 at 11:16 PM
Total Updates: 4

The use of the term terminal has historically meant a computer used for entering and displaying data. These devices were limited to only the hardware and software necessary to complete this task. Over time as operating systems developed and advances were made in computer hardware, the term terminal has been used less and less frequently.

With the different technological innovations, terminals have been replaced by computers with full blown operating systems and extended capabilities. New terms have surfaced to describe computers with these same functions but with better features. One example of a computer that performs similar functions today is called a kiosk. Kiosks are computer terminals featuring specialized hardware and software designed within a public exhibit that provides access to information and applications for communication, commerce, entertainment, and education. The term kiosk has not replaced the term terminal, but is an example of how the use of the word terminal is being used less often and being replaced by more innovative devices that go by different names.

Today the word terminal can be used in what is described as a "virtual terminal" which essentially is a connection to a remote server through a virtual terminal program called a terminal emulator. These virtual terminal programs can open up multiple virtual terminals to multiple remote servers. This connection makes use of a CLI, or command line interface. Through these virtual terminals data entry, retrieval, and management can be performed.

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the word terminal and how it may be used. Like a lot of other technical terms, it is being used less often. This term will probably be around for a while. The use of virtual terminals is still a common chore for network administrators and other IT professionals that need to make remote connections to their servers.