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What is the exact difference between a ‘terminal’, a ‘shell’, a ‘tty’ and a ‘console’?

This question follows directly from another question of mine in this great forum. What exactly is the concept of a Pseudo Terminal in Linux speak? Can you please explain with an example. Is it a different concept from Terminal emulators?

marked as duplicate by Gilles, jasonwryan, manatwork, daisy, Renan Dec 13 '12 at 12:41

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A terminal is a piece of hardware with a screen and a keyboard, usually connected using a serial line to a computer. In case of a Unix computer it is served by the getty process, which provides a shell to the user.

A pseudo terminal is a terminal session (also providing a shell to the user), which uses a virtual connection via TCP instead of a serial line. Such a pseudo terminal is usually served by the sshd, less securely also by the telnetd.

A terminal emulator is the client program, the users uses to open such a pseudo terminal.

  • tty's (F1-F7) are pseudo terminals or just virtual terminals? – Spidey Dec 12 '12 at 18:33

In an overly simplified format:

Pseudo terminal = a device file on your unix system when not being used; a process on your unix system attached to the aforementioned device file for input/output.

Terminal emulator = an application running on your local desktop, making a telnet or ssh connection to a remote server.

  • Konsole, xterm, gnome-terminal are all terminal emulators. They emulate the physical terminals of old in the sense that they provide user interface facilities (a screen area and input through the keyboard and mouse) as software. – Spidey Dec 12 '12 at 18:33

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