cathode-full-screen

Cathode, a Vintage Terminal

Cathode is a vintage terminal emulator for Mac OS X. Sporting an extremely authentic retro look, the app echoes the old CRT terminals of the 70s and 80s whilst providing much of the same functionality as the terminal built into OS X. Cathode contains a wide range of classic themes in various shapes and colors, as well as a bevy of customization options. You can change the size, font and colors as you’d expect, but there are also unique options like changing the screen’s refresh rate (with options for both baud and kbs!), curvature, flicker and glass effects. Cathode is one of the most unique and well designed apps I’ve seen and is sure to turn heads when you boot it up with it full-screened in your local computer lab or coffee joint.

cathode-full-screen

Cathode is made by Colin Caufield, lead (and only) developer at Secret Geometry. I took the opportunity to pick his brain about Cathode’s future development, the possibility of ports to Windows and Linux, and his reasons and inspirations for taking up the project:

Cathode was partially inspired by GLTerminal.  I loved that app!  Last year I was looking for a project to work on, and it occurred to me that lots of people wanted something like this.  I went pretty overboard on the graphics by the end, but it was a lot of fun.  I’m very proud of the finished product.

Planned Upgrades

Cathode is under constant development. Colin hopes to soon release version 1.0, with quite a few planned upgrades, including modern terminal functionality and performance improvements:

Version 1.0 will have selection/copy support, drag and drop files support, and extended character support (accented characters, umlauts, etc.)  Also, the app will be getting some performance tweaks.

These improvements should make it much easier to justify using Cathode as a serious terminal instead of a retro novelty. While Cathode did run smoothly on my machine, it did take a hearty third of my Hackintosh’s Core2Duo CPU. For a terminal that’s a bit excessive, but hopefully this will be greatly improved in future revisions.

Ports to Linux or Windows?

The most common question about Cathode regards its availability on other platforms. I was pleased to hear that the Cathode developer would be willing to release a free open source Linux version, although he understandably doesn’t want it ported back to Mac:

“As for Linux, I would love to release a free version for Linux, but again, I’d need to work with someone else.  I really wish there was a way I could release a free/open-source version for Linux without ruining my Mac sales, but I don’t think that’s possible.  If I released the source, I’m sure someone would release a free Mac port, and I’d be out of a job.  I have a lot of respect for the open source community, and I think it’s becoming increasingly important.”

Hopefully this can be solved with judicial application of the proper license, as I think Linux users would really get a kick out of this application. Whilst an eventual Linux release seems possible, those on Windows aren’t likely to be so lucky – the developer doesn’t want to port Cathode to Windows due to concerns over piracy. It’s an understandable objection, but one that I am sure will disappoint many Windows users stuck with the default command prompt.

Try Cathode

If you’re interested in trying Cathode, you should download it from developer Secret Geometry’s website. The download is free, but a clever trial scheme means that the terminal will slowly fade away, and you’ll have to restart the program or buy a license to return the program to normal and unlock the customization options. The full app costs $20 – it sounds expensive, but when you see the detail and dedication that has gone into producing Cathode I think you’ll agree it’s a price worth paying.

4 / 5 stars     
Posted in Mac OS X and tagged , , .
  • Xyzmjf

    Great retro terminal application, reminds me of the vt220

  • Xyzmjf

    Great retro terminal application, reminds me of the vt220n

  • “Cathode is one of the most unique and well designed apps I’ve seen and is sure to turn heads when you boot it up with it full-screened in your local computer lab or coffee joint.” – And THIS is why I don’t own a Mac. I prefer to use my computer to actually do things, as opposed to using it as a fashion accessory.

    • Anonymous

      I like computers that can do both ;)

  • “Cathode is one of the most unique and well designed apps I’ve seen and is sure to turn heads when you boot it up with it full-screened in your local computer lab or coffee joint.” – And THIS is why I don’t own a Mac. I prefer to use my computer to actually do things, as opposed to using it as a fashion accessory.

    • Anonymous

      I like computers that can do both ;)

  • Hghghg

    what is the point in this? lets make our screens look stupid like they did years back? no computers have been upgraded for a reason, guys, get a real job and stop wasting everyones time. The whole idea and look ofit is old and stupid.

    • William Judd

      Yeah guys. Get a real job.

  • Hghghg

    what is the point in this? lets make our screens look stupid like they did years back? no computers have been upgraded for a reason, guys, get a real job and stop wasting everyones time. The whole idea and look ofit is old and stupid.

    • Gerry

      I know this comment is 6 years old and I hope the original poster has gained some wisdom and perspective since then because it is quite possibly one of the most idiotic comments I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot.

      • Homer

        It’s mainly saying you haven’t read shit.

  • Anonymous

    Well I just ran across cathode really wish it ran on windows
    not because it looks old but because it resembles the pip boy 3000 from fallout3 and new vegas
    if I had a mac I would probably buy this. And for anyone who does not get it. and think this guy is wasting his time you obviously have no clue what it takes to write an application in windows,linux or even mac and you really have no room at all to talk.

  • Daniel

    Cool stuff he’s doing there. But his reasoning for not wanting to port it to Windows seems a bit strange. That piracy is even that much of a problem on Windows is a highly debatable topic—considering for example that “industry analysts” usually count 100% of illicit downloads as lost sales, while I would put the number at maybe around 1%, if that. It’s actually really simple: people who are willing to pay, pay; those who aren’t, won’t. I find it hard to believe that anyone who ever wanted to download a pirate copy of something ended up purchasing it if they didn’t find it to freeload. The whole thing is a thing of opportunity, not necessity or being cheap. There’s no negative effect on sales. People working in the software business usually understand that. Only empty suits in management sometimes don’t, which is why we still have to put up with crap like DRM.

    Well, actually that’s why the reasoning is rubbish—the reason why I find it outlandish is that he assumes piracy is less prevalent on Mac, which it absolutely isn’t. Sure the absolute number of circulating copies is less than for Windows software, but the ratio will be about the same as the number of Mac vs. Windows systems.

    I’d have much rather thought that a Windows version were less likely to happen because porting to Linux is a much smaller step than to a non-POSIX OS. Well, at least that would’ve been a better excuse, since I can’t believe he buys his own.

  • Sap

    If you put this up for sale on the Ubuntu software store I’ll buy it.