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Definition: virtual terminal

(1) Software in a user's computer that emulates a particular type of hardware terminal in order to access a server. When personal computers began to proliferate in the late 1980s, virtual terminals enabled users to access the corporate minicomputers and mainframes from their PCs without having to use dedicated terminals. Also called "terminal emulation."

(2) Web browser-based access to a merchant services site for authorizing and entering credit card purchases. Instead of a physical terminal that can read the magnetic stripe on the card, the account information has to be manually typed in; however, it enables access from any online computer.

(3) Providing access to a database or an information system via a common interface such as a Web browser on any user's computer.