X Terminal

What Does X Terminal Mean?

An X terminal is an input terminal with a display, keyboard, mouse and touch pad that uses X server software to render images. Used as an open-source windowing system known as the X Window System, the X terminal does not perform application processing – this is handled by the network server.


X allows applications to run on a network server but be displayed on the X terminal or desktop machine. During the 1980s-1990s, this industry stride was significant because servers were much more powerful than personal computers. X and the X terminal were therefore the forerunners of modern thin clients (network computers) and network server operating systems.

An X terminal is also known as a diskless computer.

Techopedia Explains X Terminal

In X, the terms client and server are used from the software’s perspective. Thus, the X server supplies a screen, keyboard, mouse and touch pad to client applications. The X terminal uses a Unix-based operating system residing on a mainframe, minicomputer or workstation.

X was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1980s. In 1987, version X11 was introduced, followed by many revisions.

X uses client/server architecture, which means that X clients applications usually run inside servers but also are able to run inside client machines. X clients and the X server communicate via the X Protocol.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.