A computer terminal is an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that can be used for entering data into, and transcribing data from, a computer or a computing system. The teletype was an example of an early-day hard-copy terminal and predated the use of a computer screen by decades. Starting in the mid-1970s with machines such as the Sphere 1, Sol-20, and Apple I, terminal circuitry began to be integrated into personal and workstation computer systems, with the computer handling character generation and sometimes outputting to a basic CRT display such as a consumer TV.
Early terminals were inexpensive devices but very slow compared to punched cards or paper tape for input; with the advent of time-sharing systems, terminals slowly pushed these older forms of interaction from the industry. Related development were the improvement of terminal technology and the introduction of inexpensive video displays.
The function of a terminal is typically confined to transcription and input of data; a device with significant local, programmable data-processing capability may be called a "smart terminal" or fat client. A terminal that depends on the host computer for its processing power is called a "dumb terminal" or a thin client. In the era of serial (RS-232) terminals there was a conflicting usage of the term "smart terminal" as a dumb terminal with no user-accessible local computing power but a particularly rich set of control codes for manipulating the display; this conflict was not resolved before hardware serial terminals became obsolete.
A personal computer can run terminal emulator software that replicates functions of a real-world terminal, sometimes allowing concurrent use of local programs and access to a distant terminal host system, either over a direct serial connection or over a network using, e.g., SSH.

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