The Text WINdow manager, twin, is quite a nice piece of software if you don't want to have to run X, though it can run within an X term. GitHub - cosmos72/twin: Text mode window environment. A "retro" program for embedded or remote systems, that doubles as X11 terminal and text-mode equivalent of VNC server
I have found that it works extremely well with the 'leggie' fonts, from Leggie, a legible, pretty bitmap font
Here is an example of a twin session, captured using fbcat.
A twin session, using the leggie18 font, on a netbook.
Top-left is a Gopherus session, top right is a window on my tilde.club account, bottom-left is Vim editing a LaTeX file and bottom-right is an Alpine mail window.
twin has many capabilities -- this only shows you what it looks like. One cannot run framebuffer graphics inside twin windows -- eg fbi, or dosbox (which uses sdl) -- but I have found that a twin window on one virtual console, and then a 'bare' framebuffer on a second one makes for a good combination for working without X.
Some nice features include a built-in clock (see bottom-right corner), and the ability to type in a window while keeping it behind others. That's why the screen capture command is invisible in the screen grab above. Alpine, links, lynx and other text-based network tools work fine, plus all your other console tools. It is very light on resources, too. top suggests it uses about 0.5% of my memory and CPU -- and I am running an old netbook with 1GB RAM and an Atom N550 chip!
Could form the basis of a Linux distro to challenge TinyCore,