TOPS-20 Commands Reference Manual


Allows you to converse with other users on your system by linking terminals.


@TALK (TO) argument


argument is a user name or terminal line number.


Typing TALK Conversation

During a TALK session, you must tell the system to regard your conversation as comments. Otherwise, the system interprets your input as attempts to give EXEC commands and responds with the message ?Unrecognized command. To signal your input as comments, begin each line with the exclamation point (!) or semicolon (;) comment character. Or, if your comment is several lines long, use the REMARK command.

Other Job Not Affected

As soon as you give a successful TALK command, both terminals begin printing both users' input as well as the system's responses to that input. Each job, however, will receive input from its own terminal only.

Ending TALK

To end a conversation link between terminals, either user can give the BREAK command.

Refused TALK

Terminals can be set to refuse links with other terminals with the REFUSE LINKS or TERMINAL INHIBIT command. If you attempt to TALK to a user who has refused links from another terminal, the system rings the bells on both terminals six times, and then prints the message, ?Refused, Send mail to user instead. If the user has refused all terminal communication with the TERMINAL INHIBIT command, the system does not ring the bell on his terminal.

If you have Wheel or Operator capabilities enabled, you can TALK to any user who has given the REFUSE LINKS command, but not the TERMINAL INHIBIT command.

Maximum of Four Terminals

By using TALK commands, you can link up to four terminals at once. For all terminals to share the same display, each pair of terminals must establish a link. For example, if terminal A is linked to B and C, terminals B and C will display only A's input. B and C must establish a link to display each other's input.


Signaling a Linked User

Once you have established links with another user's terminal via the TALK command, you can get his attention by typing a series of CTRL/Gs. Depending on the kind of terminal he has, these will be reproduced as ringing bells or high-pitched beeps. This action can be especially useful when establishing links with the owner of a display terminal, as display terminals are silent in ordinary operation.

Special Cases

User Has More Than One Job

If more than one job is logged in under the user name you specify, the system responds with a list of that user's terminal line numbers and the programs being run. Type your choice of terminal line number (if available, the one running the EXEC) after the TTY: prompt.

Talking to a Batch Job or PTYCON Job

When you link to a PTY (pseudo-terminal) to talk to the owner of a batch job or PTYCON job, the system informs you of this with a message, to which you must reply with a carriage return to confirm the link. To decline the link, give a CTRL/C. See also Warning, Talking to a Batch Job, below.


Talking to a Batch Job

Use caution when communicating through a PTY (pseudo-terminal) that is controlling a batch job: do not send a question mark (?) or percent sign (%), because these characters can be attributed to errors occurring within the job. Also, if an error actually does occur in the batch job and the batch system's question mark is displaced (by your remarks) from the beginning of a line, the system may not recognize it as an error.

Talking Between a VT100 and a VT52

If links between VT100 and VT52 terminals are established using a TALK (or ADVISE) command, the VT52 may function improperly during or after the linked interval (such as by requiring frequent CTRL/Q commands to print multiple lines of output). Turning the terminal off and then on again (after the linked interval) will correct this problem.

Related Commands

ADVISE for sending commands to another user's job
BREAK for ending communications links involving your terminal
RECEIVE LINKS for allowing other users to talk to you
REFUSE LINKS for preventing other users from talking to you
REMARK for telling the system to regard your terminal input as comment only
SEND for sending a message to another user's terminal
TERMINAL INHIBIT for refusing all types of terminal communication including advice, links, system messages, user messages, and notices of new mail.


  1. Give the TALK command to establish links to another user.
    [Link from LATTA, TTY 230]
  2. Try to talk to a user who has given the REFUSE LINKS command, then use the MAIL program to send your message.
    ?Refused, send mail to user instead
    Subject: HUNCH
  3. Talk to another user, giving the REMARK command immediately after TALK. (The other user's reply must still be preceded by semicolons (;) or exclamation marks (!).) Give a CTRL/Z to end REMARK before typing the BREAK command to end the conversation.
    [Link from LATTA, TTY 230]
    Type remark. End with CTRL/Z.
    @;in <accts>deft-77.cbl
    @;you should have group access there...
  4. Give the TALK command to establish links to a user who has 3 jobs on three different terminals; choose one of the terminals running the TOPS-20 command processor.
     TTY19, DUMPER
     TTY26, EXEC
     TTY27, EXEC
    TTY: 27
    [Link from LATTA, TTY 230]