I have an old laptop (Dell Latitude D610) that I want to use as a serial terminal for some systems that require that, since this machine has a built-in RS-232 port. I have installed Debian 12 and minicom, but without graphical environment, so I login on the text console. However when I start minicom, Ctl-A Z doesn't open the help menu - instead I just see z echoed and the cursor doesn't move. In fact I have observed the same in screen, so this isn't limited to minicom.

On my new laptop, I see the same phenomenon, but it works without problems in a GUI terminal on the same system, so it seems to be specific to the text mode consoles. Is there a setting somewhere that I can change to fix this issue?

  • 1
    After Ctrl-A, are you pressing the unshifted z key, or the shifted Z key? The tutorials I've seen suggest the latter is what brings up the help screen.
    – Sotto Voce
    Sep 9 at 3:53
  • @SottoVoce Interesting - I'll try that now. Actually, that worked; I've never had to do that before, so I'm surprised. If you post it as an answer, I'll accept it. Thx.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Sep 11 at 8:30

1 Answer 1


The minicom help screen key binding is Ctrl-A Z with an uppercase Z. The symptoms you describe are consistent with pressing the keys Ctrl-A z with a lowercase/unshifted z.

screen uses Ctrl-A z to exit from a session while leaving the session running, which is a common thing to do. Perhaps your muscle memory has been remembering the screen keystroke sequence while you're using minicom.

  • Still Ctrl-A is really Ctrl+a (lowercase/unshifted). This adds to the confusion. Sep 11 at 13:33

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