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CP437 / IBM Extended ASCII in OS/X Terminal for BBS’s / BitchX / ANSI etc

by on Mar.03, 2013, under Cracking, Hacking, How-To, Personal, Software, Tech, Uncategorized

So I will often times use an old-ish IRC program called “BitchX” to chat with friends. BitchX has some built-in ANSI graphics, which use extended ASCII characters. In the default OS/X “terminal” app, these extended ascii characters show up incorrectly, with a block/question mark character, i.e.:
This Guy...

These question mark characters were over time becoming more and more infuriating every time I would launch the app. It seems that the majority of people I found online searching for the same thing were eventually settling on an application called “SyncTerm”. SyncTerm is kind of a hokey terminal emulator seemingly meant specifically to connect to BBS’s. On the plus side, SyncTerm DID manage to render the extended ASCII characters by default. HOWEVER – it does not support cut-n-paste, or a number of other standard features you would expect out of a terminal application. So this was a no-go for me. SyncTerm DID prove that extended ascii (line drawing) characters were possible to render on OS/X.

Ultimately, I ended up finding a way to get a terminal application called “iTerm” to do the trick. By default, iTerm does NOT render extended ascii. Instead, you have to perform a few steps in order to get it going.

Step 1. Install at least one of the following TrueType fonts below:

Step 2. Install iTerm

Step 3. Open iTerm, change a couple settings.
a. Go into preferences -> Profiles -> Text
Set the font for both “Regular Font” and “Non-ASCII Font” to one of the three fonts I’ve asked you to install earlier. I am currently using “11pt Perfect DOS VGA 437”.
b. Go into preferences -> Profiles -> Terminal
Under “Terminal Emulation” -> “Character Encoding” – change the encoding from the default (Unicode UTF-8) to “Western ASCII”.

At this point, my iTerm was rendering the extended ASCII / line drawing characters as expected! :)
Like this! :)

Honorable mentions to a couple interesting projects I discovered during my efforts to resolve this issue go to the “Fink” project, as well as the “DOS Box” project.

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