Portable terminals aren’t very common anymore, as most technicians and admins just use their laptops, smartphones, or tablets to get the job done. But laptops push the boundaries of “portable” pretty far, and smartphones and tablets lack physical keyboards. If you’re tunneling in via SSH and typing a lot of server commands, you want a real keyboard. That’s why Igor Brkić decided to build his own portable terminal based on a Raspberry Pi.
To be accurate, hgTerm isn’t strictly a terminal. It uses a Raspberry Pi, so it’s really a portable computer that can be used as a terminal. But the same is true for most “terminals” these days. Originally, the purpose of a terminal was to act as an input/output device for working with computers and servers in a time when monitors and keyboards were an extravagance. They didn’t usually have the components, like storage, to be considered an actual computer. These days they’re still used for the same purpose — there is no sense in giving every server in a data center its own graphics card, monitor, and keyboard — but the hardware is cheap enough for terminals to be their own multipurpose computers.
Brkić started his build by removing the unnecessary ports from a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ in order to slim it down as much as possible. He then added a 4″ 800×480 touchscreen display from Pimoroni and a mini Bluetooth keyboard. Power is provided by a 5,000mAh battery through an Adafruit Powerboost 1000C. There is also an Arduino-compatible development board for power management and tasks requiring GPIO pins. The clamshell enclosure was modeled in FreeCAD and then 3D-printed on an Anycubic i3 Mega 3D printer. The finished hgTerm looks fantastic, and provides all the features Brkić wanted in a portable terminal.