A Shark for Rob Stewart

I’ve been working on a shark for awhile. It was difficult to get the curves and straights to flow into each other and not having it look more like a dolphin than a shark. I like this as an end result. Perfect? No, but its pretty good. A tribute to our Canadian filmmaker, Rob Stewart.
A Shark for Rob Stewart
Sharkwater Extinction – Rob Stewart

The Demise of the $.01 Sign

Originally posted by Charlie Anderson. The site seems to be hanging on but has not been updated since 2003. I liked finding a post about an ASCII art character (more history to it than that of course). We don’t think about the individual keyboard characters very often, but they have been around for centuries, long before they were placed on a keyboard.

When I was a boy, not so long ago, there was a thing called the cent sign. It looked like this: ¢

It was the dollar sign’s little brother, and lived on comic books covers and in newspaper advertisements and on pay phones and wherever anything was being sold for less than a buck. It was a popular punctuation symbol—no question mark, or dollar sign, certainly, but just behind the * in popularity, and I daresay well ahead of #, &, and the now Internet-hot @. It owned an unshifted spot on the typewriter keyboard, just to the right of the semicolon, and was part of every third grader’s working knowledge.

In the late 1990s, you don’t see many cent signs. Why? Because hardly anything costs less than a dollar anymore? Actually, the demise of the cent sign has little to do with inflation, and everything to do with computers. And therein lies a tale.

In the 1960s a disparate group of American computer manufacturers (basically, everyone but IBM) got together and agreed on an encoding standard that became known as ASCII (“ass-key”—The American Standard Code for Information Interchange). This standard simply assigned a number to each of the various symbols used in written communication (e.g., A-Z, a-z, 0-9, period, comma). A standard made it possible for a Fortran program written for a Univac machine to make sense to a programmer (and a Fortran compiler) on a Control Data computer. And for a Teletype terminal to work with a Digital computer, and so on.

So-called text files, still in widespread use today, consist of sequences of these numbers (or codes) to represent letters, spaces, and end-of-lines. Text editors, for example, the Windows Notepad application, display ASCII codes as lines of text on your screen so that you can read and edit them. Similarly, an ASCII keyboard spits out the value 65 when you type a capital ‘A,’ 65 being the ASCII code for ‘A.’

The committee decided on a seven bit code; this allowed for twice as many characters as existing six bit standards, and permitted a parity bit on eight bit tape. So there were 128 slots to dole out, and given the various non-typographic computing agendas to attend to, it was inevitable that some common symbols, including several that had always been on typewriter keyboards, wouldn’t make the cut. (The typewriter layout had certain obvious failings in computer applications, for example: overloading the digit 1 and lower case L, so it couldn’t be blindly adopted.)

Three handy fractions were cut: ¼ ½ ¾. This makes sense, especially when you consider that the ASCII committee was composed of engineers. I’m sure they thought, in their engineer’s way, “Why have ¼ but not 1/3? And if we have 1/3, then why not 1/5? Or 3/32?” Similarly, the committee apparently found $0.19 an acceptable, if somewhat obtuse, way of expressing the price of a Bic pen. At any rate, the popular and useful cent sign didn’t make it.

And so the cent sign was off keyboards, terminals, and printers. Not that many people noticed right away. The companies behind ASCII sold big, expensive computers that were used to run businesses, and few cared that there wasn’t a cent sign character on one’s new line printer. Heck, if your printer could handle lower-case letters, you were state of the art.

But when personal computers began to appear in the late 1970s, the primary application driving their adoption was word processing. These new small computers used the ASCII standard—after all, that’s what standards are for. By the millions, typewriter keyboards (with ¢) were traded in for Apple IIs and IBM PCs (without ¢). While it’s true that the cent sign was ultimately made part of other larger encoding standards, and is possible to create at modern PCs with a little effort—the damage had been done. Without a cent key in front of them, writers of books, newspapers, magazines, and advertisements made do without. And over time, $0.19 began to look like the right way to say 19¢. In another few years the cent sign will look as alien as those strange S’s our forefathers were using when they wrote the constitution.

Original Source (site is untouched since 2003): The Demise of the $.01 Sign

I Like Making ASCII Art

This post was originally posted to Squidoo while I was writing there. That site was closed in 2014.

I Like Making ASCII ArtMaybe you have seen ASCII art and didn’t know what it was.

I make pictures using my computer keyboard – the characters of the keyboard, the text letters, punctuation marks and the numbers too. I enjoy ASCII art. Working with text to make a picture instead of words is like a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces into the right places and finding which text characters work best in which spaces.

I always thought I couldn’t draw so ASCII art became my outlet to put images from my mind into something I could show in print. (Because no one else can see all the stuff in your head).

My Experience as an ASCII Artist

1996 to Current

For me, ASCII art began in 1996 when I was new online and noticed amazing work done in keyboard text and used as signatures in email and online forums. I had to search to find the actual name, ASCII art. Those were the pre-Google days. I actually found it by asking someone on a website which was a one man project. I wish I still had the link so I could give credit to him. But, I don’t even know if the site is still active, or even still online.

My first ASCII art was a house with a tree and other touches added in. It wasn’t any house in particular so I had the freedom to create it however I liked. It did not turn out as well as I hoped. I was glad to have completed something in ASCII art myself but it wasn’t something I was going to show off.

In 1998 I found a group of ASCII artists on the newsgroups. You can still find those newsgroups, they were eventually taken over (and the archives kept) by Google. Take a look at Google Groups, search for ASCII art and you will find two groups in the alt and rec sections. There are actually even more ASCII art groups if you look for those in German and other European languages. Now and then I use a translator online because there is some really great ASCII art in those groups too.

I met several artists in 1998. My early attempts were given fair critics, some suggestions and only a little snickering behind the computer screens where I couldn’t see it. Joan Stark became famous for her ASCII art in those days. But, there were so many others who had wonderful ASCII art too. Joan was the most prolific and later, the most broken hearted as more and more of her ASCII art was stolen – credit for the work ripped off or claimed by someone else.

For a few years in between the late 1990′s and about 2010 I dropped out of making ASCII art myself. Most of the people from the group were also winding down. Our newsgroup was plagued with spam, our art was being stolen, some was taken to be coloured by people using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) but they also took the credit for our work off and claimed it was their work because they had changed it so much. Another problem was someone who took the art and perverted it into obnoxious jokes and then posted it to the group just to aggravate everyone. Myself, I was disheartened when a set of jack-o-lanterns I created was ripped off – a woman in Australia claimed them as her own. She even posted them to the ASCII art newsgroup and asked everyone what they thought of her great ASCII work.

At the end of 2010 something sparked in me and I once again took up ASCII art, just for myself. I had enjoyed it so much when I was just creating something for myself and then showing and getting feedback, tips and encouragement in the group. Almost no one was left from the group and I have only tracked down a few of them since 2010. But, I found it didn’t matter. My skill had somehow improved over the years, even though I had done almost nothing.

I began making ASCII art for holidays, like Christmas and Halloween and some which had very little (to none) ASCII art – like Groundhog Day. It became fun again and I didn’t mind working alone.

Lately I have been getting requests for ASCII art. I didn’t put my name out there so it was nice to be asked for something special. I have made ASCII art for a print literary magazine. They offered to pay but never did, so I won’t be mentioning their name. The rest has been freebie work and at least it’s honest freebie work. I have created ASCII art for a text based game and have a ‘contract’ to work on larger images for another game which wants ASCII art backgrounds. I’ve also created ASCII art for family events like a friend’s wedding, the birth of my sister’s first baby and my nephew, Zack, who started living on his own while attending his first year of university.

Doing More With ASCII Art

ASCII art in itself is nice but you can do things with the ASCII art you create. I’ve got a list of things you may not have thought of.

ASCII Art in HTML Source Code – Now and then if you look at the source code (the HTML code) of websites you can find ASCII art. Its like a secret surprise for those who dig a little deeper.

ASCII Art as Image Tags – If you know what the alt image tags are (and where they are) you could give this a try.

Passwords in ASCII Art – One line ASCII art can be used as a unique password.

Word Play with ASCII Art – Rebus Puzzles, also known as Wordies can be created with ASCII art.

Places to Find ASCII Art Online

Curlie – ASCII Art  – I founded and still maintain the links in this category at the web directory, formerly known as The Open Directory Project.
Chris’s ASCII Art Collection – Still actively maintained but a more selective collection of ASCII art.
ASCII Art Dictionary – My favourite ASCII art collection, the easiest to search, but not as actively maintained.

These were comments from the original post on Squidoo. I couldn’t find a good way to import them but didn’t want to leave them behind. Right now the links to the images and profiles will work. I expect that will change when the entire site is due to be pulled offline in October, 2014.

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