Typewriter Art History

Though Stacey may have well produced more typewriter art before her famous butterfly, none of it is preserved and the anonymous plate from the 1893 manual is now considered the first recorded example of “art-typing.”

Though early typewriter art made its mark, the golden age of the discipline was still decades away — it wasn’t until the concrete poetry movement of the 1950s–1970s, best described as concerned with “poetry that appeals to the eye and not the ear,” that the typewriter became a commonly embraced artistic medium.

Source: A Visual History of Typewriter Art from 1893 to Today – Brain Pickings

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

Text Art Used for Newspaper Advertisments

It seemed that many of the newspapers of the era carried such illustrations, with large titles and sometimes simple shapes like hearts and crosses all composed out of type. I know it as ASCII art, but it appeared roughly a hundred years before the personal computer even existed. Of course, before there were computers, there were typewriters, and the first recorded instances of typewriter art date back to at least 1893, but I’d never seen a record of any other ASCII-type art as early as the 1870s. I felt like an archaeologist who picks up an ancient clay urn and finds a modern emoji on it.

In the early days of computers, those first graphics were text inside terminals or printed by daisywheel printers. However, unlike other ASCII art, the designs in these newspapers were definitely not created on typewriters—but painstakingly composed one letter at a time with blocks of type by professional typesetters. Nor are they actually art per se, but stylistic tactics employed to exploit scarcity as an advantage.

For most of the 19th century, newspapers were slim things. Every page had to be typeset by hand, meaning that the largest daily newspapers stretched to only 8 or 12 pages—and many were even shorter. Advertisers soon figured out how to exploit this scarcity of space by buying more ads than they needed, perhaps to deny their competitors any room. But once they had all that real estate, what do they do with it?

An ingenious solution emerged: What if, instead of giant letters, you could build large letters out of smaller blocks of text? I haven’t yet figured out the exact point when and where this practice started, but I did learn that it predated even the 1870s. I found an 1860 ad for hoop skirts in the shape of a skirt. And in 1862, Smith & Brothers brewery in New York placed ads with ASCII text in several papers nationwide.

Source: Solving a Century-Old Typographical Mystery – The Atlantic

On the Origin of Emoji

Lucas provides a brief history of emoji’s predecessors, all the way from ornamental characters in the hand-executed typesetting of early-16th-century printed books to the many symbols of digital type. His journey touches upon the evolution of the dingbat and the emergence of emoticons, the punctuation-based kaomoji, ASCII art, and even expressive punctuation such as the ironieteken — conceived to denote ironic statements — and late 16th-century English printer Henry Denham’s proposed percontation point — to mark rhetorical questions.

Source: On the Origin of Emoji

Radioteletype (RTTY) Art

RTTY – Radioteletype

Before the racy photos of characters made for the Commodore 64, before the signature of Fidonet and newsgroups ASCII-art was a limited phenomenon to which he belonged to an elite technicians who used the teletype with similar methods. The so-called RTTY-art is returned to the enjoyment enlarged by some enthusiasts who are making it available again testing period. These include Don Royer, responsible for this site, which already in 1970 on RTTY Journal published a piece entitled ‘RTTY ART made easy’. One of the peculiarities of this technique is that it is exploited not only the properties of the characters to simulate the forms through their combination, but also the overprinting of the characters themselves obtainable by certain instructions, which guaranteed the shading of some parts. Explored between the pages is also a viewer for files RTTY written in java, which correctly reproduces the images in the archive, with the overprints and the right proportions.

Source: RTTY-art, the grandparents of ascii-art. | Neural