Frames per second? Windows Terminal brings back text animation with the VT100 blink

Tired of all the new at Microsoft's Ignite? Enjoy a bit of DEC goodness


Microsoft has followed up the delightfully retro CRT style available in its Windows Terminal application with the arrival of a blinking attribute familiar to DEC fans of old.

Currently available in preview form, version 1.4 of Windows Terminal also allows users to fire things up with a specific profile from the Windows start menu or task bar. The update means text-mode fans need not wait for the application to load before tumbling feet first into PowerShell or Ubuntu.

Other tweaks include support for embedded hyperlinks (which appear with an underline) and Vim not insisting on starting in replace.

However, the addition of the Select Graphic Rendition (SGR) attribute SGR 5 to Windows Terminal will delight those missing the days of blinkage in the text buffer.

The implementation is relatively straightforward. Rather than make the blinking characters disappear, Windows Terminal will cycle the colour of characters with the attribute set between normal and a dimmer shade. The gang checked the behaviour by eyeballing a video of a DEC VT220 and comparing it to the behaviour of Windows Terminal.

The effect, coupled with the retro CRT mode, is evocative of long nights spent hunched over a VT100 and, in a more practical sense, improves the rendering of often rather venerable pages when viewed in Windows Terminal. The blink attribute also exercises the muscle memories of those who created rudimentary animations using the feature in the past (and occasionally the present).

Support for DEC's VT100 has been a thing for a while in the Windows Console world as well as many terminal emulators, with the implementation of control character sequences controlling the likes of cursor movement and colour following the VT100 example. The VT100 itself dates back to the 1970s, eventually being replaced by the more capable VT220 terminal.

The gaudy colours of a modern graphical user interface pale in comparison to the soft amber or green hue of DEC's finest, right?

Sadly, the attribute for rapid blinking (SGR 6) is not currently supported. It does, after all, stray a little outside of how things worked back in the day in VT100 land.

The preview of 1.4 landed at the same time as the release of version 1.3, which added such niceties as a command palette, coloured tabs and an improved tab switcher.

All are handy features. But blinking text? Now you're talking. ®


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