Terminal servers still exist in the technological backwaters of the world, and are handy little buggers for low-tech internet connection sharing.

The terminal servers I support at work are made by Xylogics; they allow 8-32 dumb terminals and/or modems to share one IP address. The terminals can telnet to the server, and the modems allow (depending on the password provided) the user to telnet to a specific machine or to get full PPP access. In hardware terms, a terminal server lets many serial devices share one Ethernet port.

Unfortunately, a terminal server usually is connected to many modems and phone lines, and to many terminals, each of which has its own connection to lightning-friendly wires. In an area so prone to T-storms as metro Tampa, too often these handy boxes literally become terminal servers.

A version of Windows NT Server which actually allows multiple users to log on to and run applications on a single server, developed only thirty or so years after Multics, ITS, and GECOS (among others) got timesharing right the first time. Also known as Hydra, though unlike its mythological counterpart, cutting a head or two off unexpectedly will tend to kill it messily.

It's actually great in principle, as anything that can run the thin client can run W32 apps off of a server. A popular demo at trade shows is to show off a 286 motherboard hooked to a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and single floppy drive (and nothing else, no hard drive) which is using the client to run Office 2000. But since W32 is such a resource hog, it takes a lot of server to service more than a handful of users. The hardware required to support 25 people running single apps (never mind full desktops) on NT Terminal Server would easily accomodate 100+ if a Real Operating System were in use.

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