Keyboard Art

Note – This was originally posted to a friend’s site in 2011. Her site is down now.

I’ve been working with ASCII Art again this year. It’s been awhile since I was active in the old ASCII art groups or wrote about it for WZ.com as a newsletter. I can’t even find a mention of my ASCII art section with the Wayback for WZ.com. Anyway, too long ago to keep track of I guess. ASCII art itself is considered pretty old fashioned in the evolving world of online art/ digital illustration. I miss it. Those days before HTML email and Flash on websites. ASCII art gave the Internet images without clogging up the loading speed for email or web pages. It was nice. The irony is that we have so much faster speeds now but it really doesn’t load much faster than I remember from 10 years ago with a 14K modem. The bloated files slow it down.

ASCII art is basically keyboard art, text art, created with the characters on the standard computer keyboard. The letters, numbers and range of punctuation available at the touch of your fingertips. Some people use more characters and create ANSI art. I’ve always felt that was a bit of a cheat, adding more characters takes away the challenge of sticking to the limits set by the keyboard.

Back when IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was popular people used the ASCII Art to add images to their lines of chat. Using some Java and some HTML they created ASCII pictures in colour. The downside was that they used ASCII art, coloured it and then claimed it as their own work. This caused friction between the original artists and the colourists. The artists didn’t want their work reclaimed, with the artist initials removed (forgotten). The colourists said they just wanted to make pretty pictures. Of course, I’m a bit biased.

ASCII art began with typewriters, before the computer age. If you search online you can find some examples for typewriter art.

I’ve been using my own ASCII Art (old and new) as well as the art of others on my blog, Word Grrls.

Saving ASCII Art History

Maybe ASCII art will just be a short term thing, relatively. It might pop up in our culture a few times over the next thousand years and some people could take a mild interest in it. I’m not thinking ASCII art is a classic art form which will endure the ages. But, it does bother me that, in the future, most ASCII art will be credited to “Anonymous”.

It’s easier to label it all anonymous than to track down original artists. Especially when initials (artist credits) are removed often and some artists never did add their initials. They were just little doodles done for a momentary amusement, a puzzle to work on before getting some real work done.

With that in mind I think I am worrying about nothing, or putting more thought into this than it deserves. But, I don’t think so. Sort of anyway.

I have a lot of files I have collected, mostly in plain text. It will be a LOT of work to sort them out (decide which artist initials were original and which it may have been stuck with along the way) but I would like to get this done. For posterity, for archivists and for Internet history.

I don’t think I will even try to find a history for each artist. Most use just their initials, or a nickname. They would be too hard to track down. Maybe some future historian will have better data and be able to figure it out. At least a few.

For now here are cars, a traffic jam, from Koshy George. Some of the original site is still online and some is online at the Wayback Machine. Note, the bottom line of text is out of place. I started fixing it then noticed I still missed the tire under the cabin part of the truck. A lot of the old files have problems like this. I have to assume my fixes are as originally intended.

I’ve saved the ASCII art. I will decide, figure out, what works for starting to post it. I could make it a membership thing. Or send out some of it as a newsletter. I don’t have a lot of faith in newsletters but it seems to be what people like (maybe a mobile phone thing).

An ASCII Art Photo Booth

Receipt Bot is an ASCII art photo booth that prints on receipt paper. Each bot comes with different coloured eyes – red, blue or green. You walk up to it and press the big button, and when you do, its eyes flash like crazy and it prints out your face, ASCII-fied on a receipt.

via My side project is an ASCII art photo booth | Web design | Creative Bloq.

The Ancestors of ASCII Art

I especially like the idea that these styles of art, ASCII art, typewriter art, teletext and others, keep coming, without influence one from the other even. Just something people get an idea to make when they site down at the machine.

Though it is still around today, ASCII art reached the zenith of its popularity before the web. It was the visual language of BBSs, Telnet, and many other pre-WWW networks. In a wholly text-based world, these works proliferated. For the brief moment that modems were the preferred mode of access to other computers, they were useful. And their sketchy aesthetic seemed right for mediums that were provisional and changing rapidly.

These things did not evolve one from the other, so much spontaneously regenerate down through the years, time and again.

Source: The Lost Ancestors of ASCII Art – The Atlantic