CONSOLE(4) Linux User's Manual CONSOLE(4)
console - console terminal and virtual consoles
A Linux system has up to 63 virtual consoles (character devices with
major number 4 and minor number 1 to 63), usually called /dev/ttyn with
1 <= n <= 63. The current console is also addressed by /dev/console or
/dev/tty0, the character device with major number 4 and minor number 0.
The device files /dev/* are usually created using the script MAKEDEV,
or using mknod(1), usually with mode 0622 and owner root.tty.
Before kernel version 1.1.54 the number of virtual consoles was com-
piled into the kernel (in tty.h: #define NR_CONSOLES 8) and could be
changed by editing and recompiling. Since version 1.1.54 virtual con-
soles are created on the fly, as soon as they are needed.
Common ways to start a process on a console are: (a) tell init(8) (in
inittab(5)) to start a getty(8) on the console; (b) ask open(1) to
start a process on the console; (c) start X - it will find the first
unused console, and display its output there. (There is also the
Common ways to switch consoles are: (a) use Alt+Fn or Ctrl+Alt+Fn to
switch to console n; AltGr+Fn might bring you to console n+12 [here Alt
and AltGr refer to the left and right Alt keys, respectively]; (b) use
Alt+RightArrow or Alt+LeftArrow to cycle through the presently allo-
cated consoles; (c) use the program chvt(1). (The key mapping is user
settable, see loadkeys(1); the above mentioned key combinations are
according to the default settings.)
The command deallocvt(1) (formerly disalloc) will free the memory taken
by the screen buffers for consoles that no longer have any associated
Consoles carry a lot of state. I hope to document that some other time.
The most important fact is that the consoles simulate vt100 terminals.
In particular, a console is reset to the initial state by printing the
two characters ESC c. All escape sequences can be found in con-
charsets(4), console_codes(4), console_ioctl(4), mknod(1), tty(4),
ttys(4), getty(8), init(8), chvt(1), open(1), deallocvt(1), load-
keys(1), resizecons(8), consolechars(8), mapscrn(8).
Console tools 28 Oct 1997 CONSOLE(4)