The console is a text-only interface to the computer (unlike the graphical user interface, or GUI, that you are almost certainly looking at now). It came along way before the GUI, but isn't necessarily ancient history. It's harder for the newbie, since there aren't many cues hinting what to do, but it is powerful. For some tasks, it is better - it's more flexible, and there is less that can go wrong to stop it from working.
The console is also known as a terminal, or tty (that came from teletypewriter, which IS ancient history). A virtual terminal is a terminal window that shows up on a graphical screen (i.e. other windows, a desktop background, icons, menus).
Linux machines are often set up with the X-Windows GUI on tty7, and tty1-6 are text consoles that you could use. Pressing Ctrl-Alt-F7 gets you to X-Windows (you're there already), and using F1-F6 in place of F7 switches to a console.