____ _____ ______________ ____ ____ ______/ _ | / ___// ____/ _/ _/ / _ | / __ /_ __// /_| | __ / / / / / / / /_| | / /_/ / / // /__| | __/ / /___ / / / / / /__| |/ / / / / //_/ |_/____/____/___/___/ /_/ |_/_/ |_| /_/
Among the oldest known examples of ASCII art are the creations by computer-art pioneer Kenneth Knowlton from around 1966, who was working for Bell Labs at the time. "Studies in Perception I" by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon from 1966 shows some examples of their early ASCII art.
One of the main reasons ASCII art was born was because early printers often lacked graphics ability and thus characters were used in place of graphic marks. Also, to mark divisions between different print jobs from different users, bulk printers often used ASCII art to print large banners, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk.
The widespread usage of ASCII art can be traced to the computer bulletin board systems of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The limitations of computers of that time period necessitated the use of text characters to represent images. Along with ASCII's use in communication, however, it also began to appear in the underground online art groups of the period. An ASCII comic is a form of webcomic which uses ASCII text to create images. In place of images in a regular comic, ASCII art is used, with the text or dialog usually placed underneath.
During the 1990s, graphical browsing and variable-width fonts became increasingly popular, leading to a decline in ASCII art. Despite this, ASCII art continued to survive through online MUDs (textual multiplayer roleplaying games), Internet Relay Chat, E-mail, message boards and other forms of online communication which commonly employ the needed fixed-width.
Over the Years, Warez Groups have began to get into the ASCII art scene. Warez groups usually release .nfo files with their software, cracks or general illegal software reverse-engineering releases. The ASCII art will usually include the Warez group's name and maybe some ASCII borders on the outsides of the release notes, etc.
ASCII art is used wherever text can be more readily printed or transmitted than graphics, or in some cases, where the transmission of pictures is not possible. This includes typewriters, teletypes, non-graphic computer terminals, printer separators, in early computer networking (e.g., BBSes), e-mail, and Usenet news messages. ASCII art is also used within the source code of computer programs for representation of company or product logos, and flow control or other diagrams. In some cases, the entire source code of a program is a piece of ASCII art — for instance, an entry to one of the earlier International Obfuscated C Code Contest is a program that adds numbers, but visually looks like a binary adder drawn in logic ports.
Examples of ASCII-style art predating the modern computer era can be found in the June 1939, July 1948 and October 1948 editions of Popular Mechanics.
Taking the medium to extremes, there is a 2D platform multiplayer shooter game designed entirely in colour ASCII art titled "0verkill". There is also a video driver for the popular video game Quake that displays the game in ASCII art. MPlayer and VLC media player can display videos as ASCII art. ASCII art is used in the making of DOS-based ZZT games. Another example of ASCII art in games is "Original War", a little-known game for Windows, in which the cutscenes for the Russians are made up totally of ASCII art.
Different techniques could be used in ASCII art to obtain different artistic effects
- Line art, for creating shapes
- Solid art, for creating filled shapes
:$#$: "4b. ':.
:$#$: "4b. ':.
- Shading, using different hues for creating gradients or contrasts
There is another type of one-line ASCII art that does not require the mental rotation of pictures, which is widely known in Japan as kaomoji (literally "face characters".) Traditionally, they are referred to as "ASCII face ". Today, some call them "verticons".
More complex examples use several lines of text to draw large symbols or more complex figures.
The two original text or ASCII smileys, :-) to indicate a joke and :-(to mark things that are not a joke, were invented on September 19, 1982 by Scott E. Fahlman, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Computer Science. His original post at the CMU CS general board, where he suggested the use of the smileys, was retrieved on September 10, 2002 by Jeff Baird from an October 1982 backup tape of the spice vax (cmu-750x) as proof to support the claim.
The list only shows some popular examples for demonstration purposes. Hundreds of different text smileys were developed over time, but only a few were generally accepted, used and understood.
|:)||classic smile||;_;||happy crying|
|:B||buck-tooth||B)||smiley with glasses|
|:/ or :||indifferent||:-0||yell, surprised|
|;)||winking smile||(:D||gossip, blabbermouth|
|/:)||one eyebrow raised||8)||Cool|
|:P||tongue sticking out (silly)||:-&||tongue tied|
Please note that:
An ASCII comic is a form of webcomic.
So called "block ASCII" or "high ASCII" uses the extended characters of the 8-bit code page 437, which is a proprietary standard that was introduced by IBM in 1979 (ANSI Standard x3.16) for the IBM PC and MS DOS operating system. "Block ASCIIs" were widely used on the PC during the 1990s until the Internet replaced BBSes as the main communication platform for computer enthusiasts around the world. "Block ASCIIs" were dominating the PC Text Art Scene.
The first art scene group that focused on the extended character set of the PC in their art work was the group called "Aces of ANSI Art" or "AAA". Members of Aces of ANSI Art disbanded and formed a group called ACiD, which stands for "ANSI Creators in Demand" in 1990. During the same year was the second major underground art scene group founded, ICE, which stands for "Insane Creators Enterprise".
"Hardcore" ASCII artists debate that Block ASCII art is not real ASCII art, but ANSI art, because it does not use the 128 characters of the original ASCII standard.
Block ASCII artists on the other hand argue that ANSI art is using the ANSI color codes and escape sequences and artwork that is only using characters of the computers character set is to be called ASCII, regardless if the character set is proprietary or not.
Microsoft Windows does not support the ANSI Standard x3.16. You can look at "Block ASCIIs" with a text editor using the font "Terminal", but it will not look exactly as it was intended by the artist. You need a special ASCII/ANSI viewer such as ACiDView for Windows (see ASCII and ANSI art viewers) to view block ASCII and ANSI Files properly in Windows. An example that illustrates the difference in appearance is part of this article. Alternatively, one could look at the file using the Type command in the command prompt.
In the art scene one popular ASCII style that used the 7-bit standard ASCII character set was the so called "Oldskool" Style. It is also called "Amiga style", due to its origin and widespread use on the Commodore Amiga Computers. The style uses primarily the characters: _/-+=.()<>:. The "oldskool" art looks more like the outlined drawings of shapes than real pictures. This is an example of "Amiga style" (also referred to as "old school" or "oldskool" style) scene ASCII art.
The Amiga ASCII Scene surfaced in 1992, 7 years after the introduction of the Commodore Amiga 1000. The Commodore 64 PETSCII scene did not make the transition to the Commodore Amiga as the C64 demo and warez scenes did. Among the first Amiga ASCII art groups were ART, Epsilon Design, Upper Class, Unreal. This means that the text art scene on the Amiga was actually younger than the text art scene on the PC. The Amiga artists also did not call their ASCII art style "Oldskool". That term was introduced on the PC. When and by whom is unknown and lost in history.
The Amiga style ASCII artwork was most often released in the form of a single text file, which included all the artwork (usually requested), with some design parts in between, as opposed to the PC art scene where the art work was released as a ZIP archive with separate text files for each piece. Furthermore, the releases were usually called "ASCII collections" and not "art packs" like on the IBM PC.
This kind of ASCII art is hand made in a text editor. Popular editors used to make this kind of ASCII art include CygnusEditor aka CED (Amiga) and EditPlus2 (PC).
Oldskool font example from the PC, which was taken from the ASCII Editor FIGlet.
_____ ___ ____ _ _
|_ _/ ___| | ___| |_||_ | | | _| |/ _ __|||| | |_| | | __/ |_|| |_______|_|___|__|
ROFL:ROFL:ROFL:ROFL___^_____L __/ LOL----___L __________]I I------------/
Another popular style of the PC underground art scene, which is using primarily the characters like "$#Xxo." was called "Newskool". This label is actually inaccurate because the style was not "new"; on the contrary it was very old but fell out of favor and was replaced by "Oldskool" and "Block" style ASCII art. Most sceners deemed it a new style, nonetheless, and dubbed it "Newskool" upon its comeback and renewed popularity at the end of the nineties.
"Newskool" continued to evolve and the use of extended proprietary characters was introduced. The classic 7-bit standard ASCII characters remain still predominant. The extended characters are primarily used for "fine tuning" and "tweaking" of the ASCII image. With the introduction and wide spread adaptation of Unicode the style developed further and new forms of text art evolved from that as well.
While some prefer to use a simple text editor to produce ASCII art, specialized programs have been developed that often simulate the features and tools in bitmap image editors. For Block ASCII art and ANSI art the artist almost always uses a special text editor, because the required characters are not available on a standard keyboard.
The special text editors have sets of special characters assigned to existing keys on the keyboard. Popular MS DOS based editors, such as TheDraw and ACiDDraw had multiple sets of different special characters mapped to the F-Keys to make the use of those characters easier for the artist who can switch between individual sets of characters via basic keyboard short cuts. PabloDraw is one of the very few special ASCII/ANSI art editors that were developed for MS Windows XP.
Other programs allow one to automatically convert an image to text characters, which is a special case of vector quantization. A method is to sample the image down to grayscale with less than 8-bit precision, and then assign a character for each value.
Examples of converted images is given below.
Since the appearance of the first simple converter tools, individuals have converted images to ASCII art automatically and afterwards claimed that they generated the result themselves "by Hand" via a text editor.
Images that were converted to text, where no touch up work was done after the conversion, can in almost every cases be identified as such, at least by an experienced text artist. The detection of converted, software generated text art becomes much harder, if some time was spent by the fraudster to touch up as much as possible of details that are typical indications that it was auto-generated by software and not drawn by hand as claimed. The inconsistencies in the way "shading" was done in just one art piece is often what gives the fraudster away.
Some ASCII artists have produced art for display in such fonts. These ASCIIs, rather than using a purely shade-based correspondence, use characters for slopes and borders and use block shading. These ASCIIs generally offer greater precision and attention to detail than fixed-width ASCIIs for a lower character count, although they are not as universally accessible since they are usually relatively font-specific.
A large character selection, the widespread use of Japanese on the internet, and the availability of standard fonts with predictable spacing make Shift JIS a common format for text based art on the internet.
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