Volker-Craig VC204 Video Display Terminal

Dublin Core


Volker-Craig VC204 Video Display Terminal


computer hardware: video display terminal


Historical Context:

In the 1950s, the operators of mainframe computers used dedicated consoles, hardcopy terminals (such as teletypes and modified electric typewriters), and a variety of cathode ray tube (CRT) displays to run and control data processing tasks. Computer consoles typically featured rows of switches and associated lights that allowed operators to run and control the execution of programs, analyze data stored in memory, and to control other hardware interfaced with computers. Hardcopy terminals were used to print on roles of paper information such as operator's commands, computer responses, and other console messages. Finally, CRTs were used to displaying information (e.g. memory contents) in a rudimentary graphical form.

The "glass teletype" that appeared in the mid-1960s was the first attempt at providing a single device allowing computer operators to run their systems having all the essential control and data processing information displayed on a screen. However, it was not until the early 1970s, when the first "dumb" video display terminals, featuring limited editing capabilities, were introduced (one of the earliest such terminals was the 7700A Interactive Display Terminal introduced by Lear Siegler Inc. in 1973). All these terminals shared the same basic keyboard-display-interface design: each featured a keyboard, a CRT screen that could display full sets of alphanumeric characters, and each had the capability to send and receive data via communication lines to a remote host computer. By the mid-1970s, video terminals became the most effective human-computer interface devices and they remain so until the mid-1980s, when they were displaced by microcomputers that could be interfaced with mainframes and minicomputers to perform terminal jobs in addition to microcomputing tasks, when PC monitors had become a common occurrence worldwide.

In Canada, the design and manufacturing of computer display terminals began in the early 1970s. Comterm Inc. (Montreal), Cybernex Ltd. (Ottawa), Electrohome (Kitchener), Lektromedia (Pointe Claire), NORPAK (Kanata), TIL Systems Ltd (Toronto), and Volker-Craig (Waterloo) were some of the pioneering companies.

Volker-Craig Ltd. was a Canadian manufacturer of video terminals, founded in 1973 by Michael C. Volker and Ronald G. Craig, both graduates from University of Waterloo. The company's early objective was to manufacture inexpensive video terminals. In a 2020 interview by Steven Forth for Ibbaka market blog, Volker recollects that

"In those days... video displays were very, very expensive and being a student, I thought, this [video terminal manufacturing] needs to be done in a way that is economical for students."

Volker's fourth-year engineering project to design an electronic circuitry for a video terminal that would allow the presentation of characters on the screen of a rudimentary television set was an entrepreneurial trigger. By the end of the 1970s, Volker-Craig was selling its terminals around the world through its offices and distributors in, among other countries, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, and US.

In January 1982, Volker-Craig merged with five other companies to form NABU Manufacturing Ltd. with headquarters in Ottawa, and continued to develop video terminals including the popular VC4404. In 1984, as a result of NABU's restructuring, Volker-Craig became once again a fully independent company renamed as Volker-Craig Technologies Ltd.

The VC204 video display terminal was one of the earliest products offered by Volker-Craig. It was an alphanumeric terminal designed to operate with an external monitor. It was implemented using TTL technology and offered both ASCII and APL language character sets.

Technical specifications:

not available

The museum has a VC204 video display terminal without documentation.








Canada, 1970s




Volker-Craig, “Volker-Craig VC204 Video Display Terminal,” York University Computer Museum Canada, accessed July 19, 2024, https://museum.eecs.yorku.ca/items/show/336.

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