In computing, the Blit was a programmable bitmap graphics terminal designed by Rob Pike and Bart Locanthi Jr. of Bell Labs in 1982.
When initially switched on, the Blit looked like an ordinary textual terminal: Similar to the VT100 it had an addressable cursor and supported escape sequences. However, after logging into a Unix host (connected to the terminal through a serial port), the host could load (via special escape sequences) software onto the Motorola 68000 processor of the display. This software could make use of the terminal’s full graphics capabilities, and attached peripherals such as a computer mouse. Normally, users would load the mux windowing system, which replaced the terminal’s user interface by a mouse-driven windowing interface, with multiple terminal windows all multiplexed on the single available serial-line connection to the host.
Each window initially ran a simple terminal emulator, which could be replaced by a downloaded interactive graphical application, for example a more advanced terminal emulator, an editor, or a clock application. The resulting properties were similar to those of a modern Unix windowing system; however the interactive interface and the host application ran on separate systems\u2014an early implementation of distributed computing.
The Blit technology was commercialized by AT&T and Teletype. In 1984, the DMD (dot-mapped display) 5620 was released, followed by models 630 in 1987 and 730 in 1989. The 5620 used a Bellmac 32000 processor, and had an unusually large green phosphor display with 1024x800 resolution (88x66 characters in the initial text mode). The 630 and 730 had Motorola 68000 processors and a faster 1024x1024 monochrome display (most had orange displays, but some had white or green displays).
The folk etymology for the Blit name is that it stands for Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal, and its creators have also joked that it actually stood for Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato. However, Rob Pike’s paper on the Blit explains that it was named after the second syllable of bit blit, a common name for the bit-block transfer operation that is fundamental to the terminal’s graphics. Its original nickname was the jerq, inspired by Three Rivers' PERQ graphic workstation.