vcs, vcsa — virtual console memory


/dev/vcs0 is a character device with major number 7 and minor number 0, usually of mode 0644 and owner root.tty. It refers to the memory of the currently displayed virtual console terminal.

/dev/vcs[1−63] are character devices for virtual console terminals, they have major number 7 and minor number 1 to 63, usually mode 0644 and owner root.tty. /dev/vcsa[0−63] are the same, but using unsigned shorts (in host byte order) that include attributes, and prefixed with four bytes giving the screen dimensions and cursor position: lines, columns, x, y. (x = y = 0 at the top left corner of the screen.)

When a 512-character font is loaded, the 9th bit position can be fetched by applying the ioctl(2) VT_GETHIFONTMASK operation (available in Linux kernels 2.6.18 and above) on /dev/tty[1−63]; the value is returned in the unsigned short pointed to by the third ioctl(2) argument.

These devices replace the screendump ioctl(2) operations of console(4), so the system administrator can control access using file system permissions.

The devices for the first eight virtual consoles may be created by:

    for x in 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8; do
        mknod −m 644 /dev/vcs$x c 7 $x;
        mknod −m 644 /dev/vcsa$x c 7 $[$x+128];
    chown root:tty /dev/vcs*

No ioctl(2) requests are supported.





Introduced with version 1.1.92 of the Linux kernel.


You may do a screendump on vt3 by switching to vt1 and typing

cat /dev/vcs3 >foo

Note that the output does not contain newline characters, so some processing may be required, like in

old −w 81 /dev/vcs3 | lpr

or (horrors)

xetterm −dump 3 −file /proc/self/fd/1

The /dev/vcsa0 device is used for Braille support.

This program displays the character and screen attributes under the cursor of the second virtual console, then changes the background color there:

#include <unistd.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include <sys/ioctl.h>
#include <linux/vt.h>

    int fd;
    char *device = "/dev/vcsa2";
    char *console = "/dev/tty2";
    struct {unsigned char lines, cols, x, y;} scrn;
    unsigned short s;
    unsigned short mask;
    unsigned char ch, attrib;

    fd = open(console, O_RDWR);
    if (fd < 0) {
    if (ioctl(fd, VT_GETHIFONTMASK, &mask) < 0) {
    (void) close(fd);
    fd = open(device, O_RDWR);
    if (fd < 0) {
    (void) read(fd, &scrn, 4);
    (void) lseek(fd, 4 + 2*(scrn.y*scrn.cols + scrn.x), 0);
    (void) read(fd, &s, 2);
    ch = s & 0xff;
    if (attrib & mask)
        ch |= 0x100;
    attrib = ((s & ~mask) >> 8);
    printf("ch='%c' attrib=0x%02x\n", ch, attrib);
    attrib ^= 0x10;
    (void) lseek(fd, −1, 1);
    (void) write(fd, &attrib, 1);


console(4), tty(4), ttyS(4), gpm(8)


This page is part of release 3.52 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at−pages/.

  Copyright (c) 1995 James R. Van Zandt <>
Sat Feb 18 09:11:07 EST 1995

This is free documentation; you can redistribute it and/or
modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of
the License, or (at your option) any later version.

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Modified, Sun Feb 26 15:08:05 1995,
2007-12-17, Samuel Thibault <>:
    document the VT_GETHIFONTMASK ioctl