‘The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.’

Towards a history of Quake-style drop-down terminals

Benjamin Slade

Continued work on fooling Emacs into behaving like a drop-down console (i.e. Equake), set me to thinking about the development of Quake-style drop-down terminals.

The frequent label “Quake-style” does seem to suggest at least part of the origin in the computer game Quake (1996), or at least that the drop-down console in Quake was the most prominent/remembered example of this sort of UI.[0]

On Linux/Unix, a number of terminal emulators have been designed with Quake-style drop-down interaction, and other platforms now seem to have these as well. As far as I can tell, drop-down terminal emulators first appeared on Linux, and probably in the early 2000s. (Though I wonder about this, both the KDE project started in 1996 (same year as Quake) and the GNOME project shortly after and it almost feels like someone must have thought about doing something of this sort between 1996-2000.)

The earliest surviving drop-down terminals on Linux seem to be Yakuake (QT/KDE), Tilda (GTK), and Guake (GTK).

Yakuake seems to have been released in the early 2000s, certainly by 2005[1], but perhaps a bit earlier. Tilda was released by 2006[2]. Guake was explicitly inspired by the original author seeing Yakuake[3], itself being released in 2007.

But “Yakuake” stands for “yet another Kuake”, and indeed the earliest drop-down terminal I can find on Linux is Kuake, released probably by 2003, with the last update in 2004[4].

Happy to hear about further history of early drop-down Quake-style terminals on any platform.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Console_(computer_games)

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20051016011941/http://yakuake.uv.ro/

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20061028182927/http://tilda.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22524552

[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20040219101722/http://www.nemohackers.org/kuake.php