DOS ANSI Fonts in Xterm on OS X

Sometimes I telnet to a BBS with rich ANSI graphics and am saddened that my OS X Terminal does not properly show the ANSI characters. It looks like garbage. Terminal does not support it, nor does iTerm, GLTerm, or aterm. My MS-DOS 486 machine did it! Why can’t I do it on my modern laptop??

Turns out it is possible. After lots of digging, I found the solution in a comment on this Slashdot thread. Basically, you have to run telnet in xterm with a special font that has all those extended ASCII characters (the “ANSI” set).

First of all, you have to have X11 installed. Next, grab these fonts and put them in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc:

1
2
3
4
cd /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc
sudo wget http://scie.nti.st/dist/sabvga.pcf
sudo wget http://scie.nti.st/dist/vga.pcf
sudo wget http://scie.nti.st/dist/vga11x19.pcf
The three fonts are the same, just small (sabvga), medium (vga), and large (vga11x19). I originally got these fonts here.

Now type the following:

1
2
sudo /usr/X11R6/bin/mkfontdir
sudo /usr/X11R6/bin/xset fp rehash
At this point you are ready to start an xterm with the correct font.

Run the X11 app and choose Applications -> Terminal from the menu. Within the xterm window that pops up, type:

1
xterm -fn sabvga -bg black -fg white
Replace “sabvga” with “vga” if you want the fonts bigger, or with “vga11x19” if you want the fonts really big.

Now you’re ready to go!

In the xterm that opens, telnet away. For example:

1
telnet bbs.synchro.net

Happy BBS’in!

Comments