HP 2640
The HP 2640A and other HP 264X models were block-mode "smart" and intelligent ASCII
The American Standard Code for Information Interchange is a character-encoding scheme based on the ordering of the English alphabet. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text...

 standard serial terminals
Computer terminal
A computer terminal is an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that is used for entering data into, and displaying data from, a computer or a computing system...

 produced by Hewlett Packard using the Intel 8008
Intel 8008
The Intel 8008 was an early byte-oriented microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel and introduced in April 1972. It was an 8-bit CPU with an external 14-bit address bus that could address 16KB of memory...

 and 8080
Intel 8080
The Intel 8080 was the second 8-bit microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel and was released in April 1974. It was an extended and enhanced variant of the earlier 8008 design, although without binary compatibility...

A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...



The HP 2640A was introduced in 1975, and used an Intel 8008
Intel 8008
The Intel 8008 was an early byte-oriented microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel and introduced in April 1972. It was an 8-bit CPU with an external 14-bit address bus that could address 16KB of memory...

 CPU, and was priced at US$3500. At introduction, it could have up to 8 KB of RAM (two 4 KB semiconductor RAM cards). Also introduced in 1975 was the HP 2644A, which was an HP 2640A with mass storage (two mini-tape cartridges), for US$5000.

Model Number

The HP catalogs usually refer to the terminal model as simply "2640A",
and infrequently as "HP 2640", or "HP 2640A" (both with a blank after the "HP"), or "2640". The incorrect "HP2640" and "HP2640A" are often seen outside of HP.


The functionality defined by the HP 264X series hasn't changed much as the preferred terminal for HP1000
HP 2100
The HP 2100 was a series of minicomputers produced by Hewlett-Packard from the mid-1960s to early 1990s. The 2100 was also a specific model in this series. The series was renamed HP 1000 by the 1970s and sold as real-time computers, complementing the more complex IT-oriented HP 3000, and would be...

 and HP3000 series computers. They never achieved the notoriety of the VT100
The VT100 is a video terminal that was made by Digital Equipment Corporation . Its detailed attributes became the de facto standard for terminal emulators.-History:...

 among programmers, but included sophisticated features not found in the VT100, such as offline forms, multipages, and (in some models) local storage.

The styling looked like vaguely like a toaster oven. It was boxy, with a "widescreen
Widescreen images are a variety of aspect ratios used in film, television and computer screens. In film, a widescreen film is any film image with a width-to-height aspect ratio greater than the standard 1.37:1 Academy aspect ratio provided by 35mm film....

" aspect ratio. HP had determined that the combination of a standard 4:3 aspect ratio with the 25 line by 80 character display that was the standard of the time required the characters to have a very high profile. HP's response was to specify a CRT with an aspect ratio designed around the desired character shape instead of the other way around. Of course, this also mandated rather high manufacturing costs as standard parts could not be used.

HP took pains to further improve the rendering of displayed characters via half-pixel positioning of individual lines within each character. Although the character cell was only 7 horizontal by 9 vertical dots, half-pixel positioning effectively doubled the horizontal resolution to 14 dots, giving the characters very smooth outlines. (The initial sales literature
referred to it as using a 7x9 matrix generated in a 9x15 dot character cell).

All of this resulted in an extremely easy to read display with the dot-matrix nature, and the scan lines, almost invisible.

The keyboard
Computer keyboard
In computing, a keyboard is a typewriter-style keyboard, which uses an arrangement of buttons or keys, to act as mechanical levers or electronic switches...

 had flat tops, similar to the HP 9800
HP 9830
The HP 9800 was a family of what were initially called programmable calculators and later desktop computers made by Hewlett-Packard, replacing their first HP 9100 calculator...

 series desktop computers rather than the curved contours now considered to be ergonomic. It featured three keypad areas: Alphabetic, numeric, and an array of cursor positioning and editing keys somewhat similar to modern PC keyboard layouts. There were also a number of smaller function and feature control keys arrayed in two rows above the normal keypad areas. The keyboard chassis was separate from the main body, connected via a thick cable. The keyboard used a bit-paired layout (similar to that on a Teletype machine) rather than the typewriter-paired arrangement on DEC's VT100. Although large, users loved the keyboard because "it had a key for everything".

Similar to the HP desktop computers, it had a number of F-keys (F1 through F8) placed close to the screen. Paper templates were available for some application programs to which placed legends for these keys on the keyboard. Later models arranged these across the top row, and provided for screen labels close to their respective keys. Terminal configuration in the 262X series was done entirely through the screen labeled function keys
Screen labeled function keys
Screen-labeled function keys are a special case of function keys where keys are placed near a screen, which provides labels for them. These are most commonly found in kiosk applications, such as automated teller machines and gas pumps. These were first developed by Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s...

 rather than dedicated keys and through escape sequences sent from the host computer. The on-screen labeling of the eight function keys, pioneered by the HP 300
HP 300
The HP 300 "Amigo" was a computer produced by Hewlett Packard in the late 1970s based loosely on the stack-based HP 3000, but with virtual memory for both code and data...

 ("Amigo") computer, was one of the first applications of a hierarchical menu which allows accessing many functions with a small number of keys. This arrangement is now common on TI graphic calculators, and automated teller and gas pump machines, though no longer used in GUI user interfaces.

Internally, the electronics used a motherboard with plug-in daughter cards. The microprocessor, memory, serial interface card, and various optional functions were each on separate cards. This permitted easy field maintenance, upgrades, and reconfiguration. For example, more memory (providing larger scrollback capability) could be easily added, the serial interface could be changed from RS-232 to current loop, etc. The optional tape drives of the 2645 model were interfaced via another plug-in card.
The plug-in card capability strongly resembled the later Apple-II expansion architecture.

The manufacturing area was across from R&D cubicles in the Data Terminals Division in Cupertino. The testing area was dubbed "beepland" because it had racks of 500 terminals, with the end of the test ending in a beep.

The HP 2640 introduced "block mode", similar to the IBM 3270
IBM 3270
The IBM 3270 is a class of block oriented terminals made by IBM since 1972 normally used to communicate with IBM mainframes. As such, it was the successor to the IBM 2260 display terminal. Due to the text colour on the original models, these terminals are informally known as green screen terminals...

 (although the IBM 3270 did not work for ASCII standard serial communications). The escape sequence
Escape sequence
An escape sequence is a series of characters used to change the state of computers and their attached peripheral devices. These are also known as control sequences, reflecting their use in device control. Some control sequences are special characters that always have the same meaning...

s Esc-[ and Esc-] defined unprotected areas, but it didn't have to take up a visible space. It acted much like a web page, disconnected from the host until the SEND key was pressed. The fields could screen for alphabetic or numeric characters, a feature beyond Windows Forms
Windows Forms
Windows Forms is the name given to the graphical application programming interface included as a part of Microsoft .NET Framework, providing access to native Microsoft Windows interface elements by wrapping the extant Windows API in managed code...

 today. This would be supported by programs such as DEL/3000 and VIEW/3000 which would map form data into runtime variables and databases. It also supported teletype character mode like a standard ASCII terminal, and did not need specialized communications like IBM.

The hardware was radically different from most "dumb" terminals in that the characters were not stored in a simple data array. To save memory, which could extend over several pages, characters were allocated as linked lists of blocks which were dynamically allocated. Display enhancements were encoded as embedded bytes in the stream. Software enhancements which did not affect the appearance such as dim or underline, but protected and unprotected fields were also coded with embedded bytes. The display hardware was capable of reading this unusual data structure. When the cost of memory came down by the 262X series, this was changed to a "parallel" structure with one bit for each enhancement code, but the logic required to emulate previous behaviors was complex. Inserting a code for underline would "propagate" to the next display enhancement, while deleting such a code would also have to be propagated to the next display byte. This data structure would inspire the sparse matrix
Sparse matrix
In the subfield of numerical analysis, a sparse matrix is a matrix populated primarily with zeros . The term itself was coined by Harry M. Markowitz....

 data structure for the Twin spreadsheet.

The HP 2640 also introduced multiple pages of memory, much like the DOS
DOS, short for "Disk Operating System", is an acronym for several closely related operating systems that dominated the IBM PC compatible market between 1981 and 1995, or until about 2000 if one includes the partially DOS-based Microsoft Windows versions 95, 98, and Millennium Edition.Related...

 box in Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 today, and the page up and page down key which appears on PC keyboards.

Users learned to use the offline key to take the terminal offline, edit a line in the display buffer, and then retransmit it. This gave the effect of command line recall and editing even if the operating system did not support it. For example, when working at an operating system's command prompt, an erroneous command could quickly be corrected and re-sent without having to retype the entire line. This was possible in many terminals of the day, but the HP 2640 was smart enough to only retransmit the line from the first character typed by the user, omitting, for example, the operating system's command prompt. This was later implemented as "line mode".

HP Printer Control Language shares a common non-ANSI
ANSI escape code
ANSI escape sequences are characters embedded in the text used to control formatting, color, and other output options on video text terminals. Almost all terminal emulators designed to show text output from a remote computer, and to show text output from local software, interpret at least some of...

 escape sequence grammar and common sequences with HP terminals.

In-house developers ported TinyBASIC to the HP 2645A, as well as developing several games in assembler (most notably "Keep On Drivin'", Tennis and Reversi).


The HP 264X series included several models beyond the HP 2640A.
  • The HP2644A introduced 3M
    3M Company , formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation based in Maplewood, Minnesota, United States....

     mini cartridge tape drive
    Tape drive
    A tape drive is a data storage device that reads and performs digital recording, writes data on a magnetic tape. Magnetic tape data storage is typically used for offline, archival data storage. Tape media generally has a favorable unit cost and long archival stability.A tape drive provides...

    s which could be used to upload or download data, as opposed to slow paper tapes of the time. Another later model used floppy disk
    Floppy disk
    A floppy disk is a disk storage medium composed of a disk of thin and flexible magnetic storage medium, sealed in a rectangular plastic carrier lined with fabric that removes dust particles...

    s, and supported drawing forms etch-a-sketch style and would compute intersections. Also notable was the use of paper labeled function keys on the upper left. These would always get lost, so users would scroll lock the top 2 lines of the screen and used these for labels. These were built into the next generation of terminals. The values of these keys could be programmed.

  • The HP 2648 was a graphics terminal which featured hardware zoom, and "autoplot". It utilized separate memory for graphics and text, allowing the user to turn off either type of display at will.

  • The HP 2647 had a variant of Microsoft BASIC
    Microsoft BASIC
    Microsoft BASIC was the foundation product of the Microsoft company. It first appeared in 1975 as Altair BASIC, which was the first BASIC, and the first high level programming language available for the MITS Altair 8800 hobbyist microcomputer....

     with AGL
    A Graphics Language
    A Graphics Language is an extension of the BASIC programming language, implemented on Hewlett-Packard minicomputers to simplify controlling a plotter. AGL commands describe the desired graphics plotting function, which the computer relays to the plotter as several HP-GL instructions to the plotter....

     (HP's standard for plotting) built in, and perhaps the first real business charting for a microcomputer, complete with 3D cross-hatched pie chart
    Pie chart
    A pie chart is a circular chart divided into sectors, illustrating proportion. In a pie chart, the arc length of each sector , is proportional to the quantity it represents. When angles are measured with 1 turn as unit then a number of percent is identified with the same number of centiturns...

    • 02647-13301 Graphics: 2647 Multiplot and Slide Software. Multiplot was the model for the PC based Chartman by the Cambridge company that also produced the Twin spreadsheet 1-2-3 clone which introduced HP 2640 style forms to PC applications.
    • 13257B Graphics: 2647 Graphics Presentation Resource Pac
    • 13257D Statistics/Mathematics: 2647 Statistical Analysis Resource Pac
    • 13257C Statistics/Mathematics: 2647 Mathematics Analysis Resources Pac
    • 13257F Business: 2647: Project Management Analysis Resource Pac
    • 13257K General/Utilities: 2647 2647/1351 Basic

  • The HP262X series introduced the "periscope" look, "soft" key labels along with a 4 + 4 key display at the bottom of the screen, a hierarchical setup tree, 12" screen and an optional internal Thermal printer
    Thermal printer
    A thermal printer produces a printed image by selectively heating coated thermochromic paper, or thermal paper as it is commonly known, when the paper passes over the thermal print head. The coating turns black in the areas where it is heated, producing an image...

    . The HP-125 45500A Dual Z80 CP/M
    CP/M was a mass-market operating system created for Intel 8080/85 based microcomputers by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc...

     used the form factor and terminal emulation of the HP 2621 terminal. The HP-150
    The HP-150, a "compact, powerful and innovative" computer made by Hewlett-Packard in 1983 and based on the Intel 8088, was one of the world's earliest commercialized touch screen computers. The machine was not IBM PC compatible, although it was MS-DOS compatible. Customized MS-DOS versions 2.01,...

     had the terminal capabilities of the HP 2623 graphics terminal in a smaller package (9" screen).

  • The HP2382 "munchkin" repackaged the HP 2622 in a 9" screen package. The HP-120 45600A packaged the HP-125 into the HP2382 form factor.

  • The "Therminal" was an unusual implementation of a screen-less printing terminal which used the thermal print mechanism. It was one of the first projects of the Vancouver division. It even supported tape cartridge local storage, but it was not successful.

The great over-reach was a color graphics terminal that cost more than the HP 2647 monochrome graphics workstation that sold very few units but cost a huge effort to develop.

Eventually, HP ended up selling essentially a low-cost version of the HP 2640. Today, terminal emulators by companies such as Attachmate
Attachmate Corporation is a software company owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital, and Thoma Cressey Bravo. Attachmate focuses on terminal emulation, legacy modernization, managed file transfer, and enterprise fraud management software. Attachmate Corporation...

 and Rogue Wave
Rogue Wave (company)
Rogue Wave Software is one of the largest providers of cross-platform software development tools and embedded components for the next generation of HPC applications....

 still implement the late 1970s feature set of these terminals on common PCs.

See also List of HP 26xx terminals (introduction, price, discontinuation)

External links

  • HostAccess (Rogue Wave
    Rogue Wave (company)
    Rogue Wave Software is one of the largest providers of cross-platform software development tools and embedded components for the next generation of HPC applications....

  • Reflection (Attachmate
    Attachmate Corporation is a software company owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital, and Thoma Cressey Bravo. Attachmate focuses on terminal emulation, legacy modernization, managed file transfer, and enterprise fraud management software. Attachmate Corporation...

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