ttyslot — find the slot of the current user's terminal in some file


#include <unistd.h>        /See NOTES */
int ttyslot( void);  
[Note] Note
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
Since glibc 2.24:
From glibc 2.20 to 2.23:
Glibc 2.19 and earlier:


The legacy function ttyslot() returns the index of the current user's entry in some file.

Now "What file?" you ask. Well, let's first look at some history.

Ancient history

There used to be a file /etc/ttys in UNIX V6, that was read by the init(1) program to find out what to do with each terminal line. Each line consisted of three characters. The first character was either '0' or '1', where '0' meant "ignore". The second character denoted the terminal: '8' stood for "/dev/tty8". The third character was an argument to getty(8) indicating the sequence of line speeds to try ('−' was: start trying 110 baud). Thus a typical line was "18−". A hang on some line was solved by changing the '1' to a '0', signaling init, changing back again, and signaling init again.

In UNIX V7 the format was changed: here the second character was the argument to getty(8) indicating the sequence of line speeds to try ('0' was: cycle through 300-1200-150-110 baud; '4' was for the on-line console DECwriter) while the rest of the line contained the name of the tty. Thus a typical line was "14console".

Later systems have more elaborate syntax. System V-like systems have /etc/inittab instead.

Ancient history (2)

On the other hand, there is the file /etc/utmp listing the people currently logged in. It is maintained by login(1). It has a fixed size, and the appropriate index in the file was determined by login(1) using the ttyslot() call to find the number of the line in /etc/ttys (counting from 1).

The semantics of ttyslot

Thus, the function ttyslot() returns the index of the controlling terminal of the calling process in the file /etc/ttys, and that is (usually) the same as the index of the entry for the current user in the file /etc/utmp. BSD still has the /etc/ttys file, but System V-like systems do not, and hence cannot refer to it. Thus, on such systems the documentation says that ttyslot() returns the current user's index in the user accounting data base.


If successful, this function returns the slot number. On error (e.g., if none of the file descriptors 0, 1 or 2 is associated with a terminal that occurs in this data base) it returns 0 on UNIX V6 and V7 and BSD-like systems, but −1 on System V-like systems.


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

Interface Attribute Value
ttyslot() Thread safety MT-Unsafe


SUSv1; marked as LEGACY in SUSv2; removed in POSIX.1-2001. SUSv2 requires −1 on error.


The utmp file is found in various places on various systems, such as /etc/utmp, /var/adm/utmp, /var/run/utmp.

The glibc2 implementation of this function reads the file _PATH_TTYS, defined in <ttyent.h> as "/etc/ttys". It returns 0 on error. Since Linux systems do not usually have "/etc/ttys", it will always return 0.

On BSD-like systems and Linux, the declaration of ttyslot() is provided by <unistd.h> On System V-like systems, the declaration is provided by <stdlib.h> Since glibc 2.24, <stdlib.h> also provides the declaration with the following feature test macro definitions:

(_XOPEN_SOURCE >= 500 ||
    && ! (_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 200112L || _XOPEN_SOURCE >= 600)

Minix also has fttyslot(fd).


getttyent(3), ttyname(3), utmp(5)


This page is part of release 5.04 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at−pages/.

  Copyright (C) 2002 Andries Brouwer <>

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies.

Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this
manual under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that the
entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a
permission notice identical to this one.

Since the Linux kernel and libraries are constantly changing, this
manual page may be incorrect or out-of-date.  The author(s) assume no
responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from
the use of the information contained herein.  The author(s) may not
have taken the same level of care in the production of this manual,
which is licensed free of charge, as they might when working

Formatted or processed versions of this manual, if unaccompanied by
the source, must acknowledge the copyright and authors of this work.

This replaces an earlier man page written by Walter Harms