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What is the reason for having so many virtual consoles?

I would understand if there was one in case the GUI crashes but 6 more besides the default? What are they for? I even see no usage for any of them except when the GUI freezes.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Short answer: why not? (implied smile, please)

More lengthy one: it is mostly a history thing, I suppose. There where 6 virtual consoles in the first kernel I booted with VC support, I really forgot when (it was around 1990, I think). Then when you started the graphical environment (by hand, with startx) it opened itself on the first free VC, which happened to be #7. And I still did most of my work on VCs at the time: the editors where much faster and sometime I used more VCs than the standard six.

For example, I used run three editors (a program, its input data, a TeX file describing it), one VC for compiling, another to read a manual, and another one connected via telnet to my mail server.

I suspect that the rationale for still using six virtual consoles is to let the graphic VC on #7 for everyone, so you can write on manuals "Ctrl-Alt-F7" and not "Ctrl-Alt-Fx where x is the first free VC".

As a side note, you can (I suppose --- never tried) trim down the VCs. Simply do

 sudo bash -c "echo 'manual' >> /etc/init/tty6.override"

to stop VC#6, following the upstart manual.

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Why not more? Run top or htop in one (gives cpu/memory usages statics), ssh to other systems in 2 or 3, run some automated task in another, keep one free just in case, login to multiple users in a few more, run cmatrix on one, start the GUI in another with -

startx -- :1

(some graphics have bugs with this)

http://mostlylinux.wordpress.com/troubleshooting/ttysessions/

When you really start to utilize this feature 7 tty's (the seventh one is the default)seem way to few - and you can add more.

To reduce the number: How can I reduce the number of TTYs?

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The practicality is real. There can be multiple programs running simultaneously in the truly multi-user Linux system, and you can drop in to check on each one if each one runs in its own virtual terminal. When you log in to each one, you can log in as different users, if needed. Now, granted, many folks arrive at Linux with a single-user perspective, but since Linux was born multi-user, that capability was never discarded.

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