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What to Expect Out Of a Free Emulator

700 Terminals FreeEmulation has been in the toolset of HP 3000 users for decades. It began with emulation of HP's hardware, yes, but it was the hundreds of thousands of HP terminals that were soon replicated in software. Just like with the Stromasys product to mimic 3000 CPU work, terminal emulators like those from Minisoft and WRQ virtualized hardware using Intel-based PCs.

Early in this century, even those emulators received some tribute: the first high-functionality 3000 terminal emulator distributed as freeware. But can you make that QCTerm software do the work of a Reflection, or MS/92? We asked Brian Edminster, curator of the open source repository An early adopter of QCTerm who worked to beta test the early versions, he says he uses the latest version and compared it to Reflection's V. 14.

"QCTerm has a number of things to recommend it," he said. "It's fast, and it's free. In addition to regular Telnet, it also supports Advanced Telnet — which can reduce bandwidth use and feels more responsive over a slow connection, because it works more like NS-VT." 

Edminster says that QCTerm is simpler than Reflection, and acts more like a cross between a browser and conventional Windows program. But he notes that there are some drawbacks, too, such as the lack of support for the software.

"It also doesn't do NS-VT," he said, "which is not really a problem, since Telnet and Advanced Telnet are available for all late-model versions of MPE/iX. It is also less sophisticated than Reflection -- not as configurable, no file-transfer ability, and has no 'programmatic' interface."

Another downside for this free emulator is that it won't accommodate using the vi editor and Advanced Telnet. But the list of technology that QCTerm can employ is thorough.

Edminster says he uses QCTerm with QEdit, QUAD, VPlus and Formspec, on Windows XP, 7, and 8 PCs. "In general, anything that would work on a 700/92 terminal works with QCTerm, including NMMGR.PUB.SYS, which is notoriously picky." I've heard that it'll work under WINE on Linux systems as well.  Come to think of it, I can't recall anything that a CRT would do that QCTerm couldn't, but I'm sure somebody will prove me wrong someday."  

The freeware was not intended to be an exact work-alike for a 700/92 terminal, nor was it designed to work like Reflection either. The documentation "makes it clear that QCTerm was intended to be something different, but better," Edminster says. "I think that for the most part, it hit the mark, even though the QCForms feature was never fully realized."  

There is also a little-known basic scripting language for QCTerm. Unlike Reflection's scripting, QCTerm's commands are really only useful for automating connections and logins. It allows you to set up a script containing connection and login commands in a text file on the PC. This can then appear as a clickable icon on your desktop that can start QCTerm. "It will either dial a modem or make a network connection, then navigate the login process," Edminster said."I use this quite often now."

A page of the documentation includes instructions on how to utilize this Autolaunch Scripting, Edminster reported.

It's much simpler than what Reflection can do, but for most vanilla access to your MPE/iX based applications (that is, if your application doesn't expect Reflection) the scripting should work just fine. I'd urge testing it in your own environment with your own applications and tools before assuming that you can ditch other terminal programs.  

One of the applications that I support actually has dependencies for Reflection coded into it (mostly to programmatically automate file-transfers). But aside from that specific functionality, QCTerm works like a champ.