In the movie Wall Street, there are two monitors that look like some kind of computers with funny looking keypads. What are they? Did they really use this kind of equipment back then?

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3 Answers 3


Those are actual stock trading computers used in the 1980s.

The manufacturer is Quotron - whose name is on the keypad in the second image. Quotron started providing a computer interface for reporting on and then trading in stocks back in the 1960s, and had 60% of the market in 1980s.

The "funny looking" keypads are due to the fact that they were designed specifically to support trading and the computers are not designed to be general purpose machines - for example, the number pad with fractions (share prices were set in multiples of 1/8th of a dollar), and the non-qwerty layout since the Quotron only really needed simple text input (looking up trading codes and such).

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    I suspect that, if these terminals were made today, they'd have QWERTY keyboards. In the 1960s, mostly only secretaries would be familiar with QWERTY so ABCD would be just as good or bad as anything else, for stock traders. Today, everyone's familiar with QWERTY from home computers, tablets and phones and, man, it's annoying when I have to use the ABCD terminals at the railway station to enter the booking code. Of course, if you used a terminal like this every day, you'd quickly get used to it. (And substitute AZERTY, etc, if your national keyboard layout isn't QWERTY.) Apr 16, 2018 at 14:27
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    @DavidRicherby Indeed, today's equivalent would be a Bloomberg Terminal, which is actually just software that runs on a standard computer, but uses a modified QWERTY keyboard. Apr 16, 2018 at 15:09
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    Actually no. Bloomberg decided to use standard computers and back when I was a broker (around 1995) a lot of software also ran on that. Special keyboards have been and still are around. If you need speed, they rock. Example? keyboardtrader.com/keyboard.html -so no, they did not disappear.
    – TomTom
    Apr 16, 2018 at 15:21
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    @DavidRicherby. Home typewriters maybe were not as common as home computers are today, but they still were fairly common. We had one in my home when I grew up, and my parents bought another to send with me to college. IIRC, most of my college classes required homework to be type-written. Typewriters weren't just for secretaries. Apr 17, 2018 at 2:29
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    ...for some definition of "proficient." I took a touch-typing elective in high school in 1970-something. It was offered as a "college prep" skill, but I secretly thought of it as a career-in-computer-programming prep skill. Of course, that proves nothing about the qwerty-ization of computers because by then, Unix was a thing, and Thompson and Ritchie got funding for Unix by pitching it to their bosses as a computerized typesetting system. Apr 18, 2018 at 13:35

The monitors are NOT computers, but so-called "dumb terminals". The terminal will be connected to a mainframe computer somewhere in another room, probably via some kind of "front-end processor" which contains the actual logic for translating digital character and control codes in the message from the mainframe into voltages and currents used to drive the cathode ray tube (and vice versa for the keyboard input).

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    A more familiar modern term, which I believe is how those terminals worked: Remote desktop Apr 17, 2018 at 7:55
  • Actually,there's something else. Terminals at the time used RS-232 serial interfaces with UART chips. These received ASCII (or similar) binary encoded characters, including standard character sequences (escape sequences) for highlighting text so the electrical to character conversion occurred inside the Quotron device not in the front-end processor device. Also, a remote desktop prvides a graphical representation of a remote computer whereas a computer terminal of the period sends character codes from the keyboard and receives character codes.and presents them on the screen.
    – Dizzley
    Apr 17, 2018 at 8:35
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    They are terminals, but they're not dumb terminals — that has a specific meaning (basically, a terminal that can only do the same things as a teleprinter). The Quotron is a variant on the IBM 3270, which is most definitely a smart terminal.
    – hobbs
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:48
  • Yes, that's another reason why a dislike the term "dumb terminal": the term was used with many different meanings. I have often heard it used to refer to mainframe terminals like the 3270 that were incapable of interacting with the application on a keystroke-by-keystroke basis, but I won't defend that usage. Apr 17, 2018 at 19:05
  • Words change meaning. It used to take hundreds of years, but things change faster in the computer age. I remember when we used to call VT100s "smart terminals," but they don't seem all that smart when you compare them to Web-based UIs, and remote desktops, and whatever else we have today. Apr 19, 2018 at 18:47

The black device is a special phone for traders called a turret (or dealerboard in UK/Europe). The one in the picture was made by Vband. The buttons on the left access lines or speed dials. The next section to the right is the dial pad and the last two sections are speakers.

Turrets have come a long way since then! https://www.ipc.com/iq-max-touch/

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