Text mode is a kind of computer display mode in which the content of the screen is internally represented in terms of characters rather than individual pixels. Typically, the screen consists of a uniform rectangular grid of character cells, each of which contains one of the characters of a character set. Text mode is contrasted to all points addressable (APA) mode or other kinds of computer graphics modes.
Text mode video rendering came to prominence in the early 1970s, when video-oriented text terminals started to replace teleprinters in the interactive use of computers.
Text mode applications communicate with the user with command-line interfaces and text user interfaces. Many character sets used in text mode applications also contain a limited set of predefined semi-graphical characters usable for drawing boxes, and other rudimentary graphics which can be used to highlight the content or to simulate widget or control interface objects found in GUI programs. A typical example is the IBM code page 437 character set.
An important characteristic of text mode programs is that they assume monospace fonts, where every character has the same width on screen, which allows to easily maintain the vertical alignment when displaying semi-graphical characters. This was an analogy of early mechanical printers which had fixed pitch (teleprinters and daisy wheel printers, etc.). This way, the output seen on the screen could be sent directly to the printer maintaining exactly the same format.
Depending on the environment, the screen buffer can be directly addressable. Programs that display output on remote video terminals must issue special control sequences to manipulate the screen buffer. The most popular standards for such control sequences are ANSI and VT100.
Programs accessing the screen buffer through control sequences may lose synchronization with the actual display, so that many text mode programs have a redisplay everything command, often associated with the Ctrl-L key combination.
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—Wallace Stevens (18791955)
“The love of their country is with them only a mode of flattering its master; as soon as they think that master can no longer hear, they speak of everything with a frankness which is the more startling because those who listen to it become responsible.”
—Marquis De Custine (17901857)