ASCII Artwork - An Internet Treasure

Category: Reference

Long before the graphical Web was invented, people were creating computer images that required no special hardware or software to view. ASCII art is composed only of plain text characters, and can be sent by e-mail without attachments. Take a stroll into Internet history, enjoy some ASCII art, and learn how to make your own...

Keepin' It Simple...

I like the idea of delivering high tech stuff in a low tech medium. Aside from being immune to viruses, worms and web bugs, plain text is universally accessible. Perhaps that's why email newsletters and ASCII artwork are some of my all-time favorite computer topics.

I'm revisiting this topic because many of the websites that are home to this important part of Internet history are disappearing.

The term ASCII refers to a standard set of characters that are supposed to display the same on any computer. ASCII art is a unique form of expression ranging from the simple to the very complex. Using only the characters on your keyboard and some creativity, you can create images that are cute, funny or intricately beautiful.

SMILIES

ASCII Art

Smilies, sometimes called emoticons, are the most basic form of ASCII art. Smilies are textual representations of emotions that people commonly use in their e-mail. They're one way to express feelings in the otherwise emotionless world of e-mail. When you see a bunch of dashes, parentheses, and other punctuation marks that don't seem to make sense, try turning your head sideways.

Smileys like the ones in the list below, are great ways to overcome the impersonal nature of the electronic medium.

:-) Smile       ;-) Wink       :-( Frown

These are the most common smilies, but there are dozens more. Check out the Unofficial Smiley Dictionary.

COWS AND OTHER STUFF

One favorite subject of the ASCII artists is animals. Many people use them in e-mail or Usenet signature files just for fun. The eagle and the cat below are classic examples.

     /     \  __  /    ------
    / /     \(  )/    -----
   //////   ' \/ `   ---
  //// / // :    : ---
 // /   /  /`    '--
//          //..\\
       ====UU====UU====
           '//||\\`
             ''``
                        ("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._
                        `6_ 6  )   `-.  (     ).`-.__.`)
                        (_Y_.)'  ._   )  `._ `. ``-..-'
                      _..`--'_..-_/  /--'_.' ,'
                     (il),-''  (li),'  ((!.-'

There are also quite a few people who enjoy portraying cows via keyboard. I've seen some hilarious ASCII cows, like these floating around in cyberspace.

          (__)
          (oo)          When cows laugh really hard,
   /-------\/           does milk come out their nose?
  / |     ||
 *  ||w---||
    ^^    ^^
                (__)
                (oo)    Mathematical Cow
       /---------\/
      / | x=a(b)||
     *  ||------||
        ~~      ~~

If you need a good chuckle, visit David Bader's COMPLETE GUIDE TO COWS, which is a large collection of ASCII cows, dating back to 1991.

And let's not forget the Internet Tourbus logo, which was featured in the Tourbus newsletter starting in 1995.

    _________ ____________ ________ __________ _____________ ___ _
   /         |            /        |          |             /   | \
  |     "Why | Surf When / You Can | Ride The | Bus?"      /    |  \
  |__________|__________/__________|__________|___________/     |   \
 /                                                       /______|----\
|         T h e   I n t e r n e t   T o u r B u s        |      |    |
|              http://InternetTourbus.com                |      |    |
\________________________________________________________|______|____|
    /   \  /   \                                             /   \
    \___/  \___/                                             \___/

FIGLETS

A figlet is a way to make large letters out of ordinary text. A program called FIGLET can use a variety of special effects to create text

| (_) | _____  | |_| |__ (_)___
| | | |/ / _ \ | __| '_ \| / __|
| | |   <  __/ | |_| | | | \__ \
|_|_|_|\_\___|  \__|_| |_|_|___/
  _   _     _   _   _   _
 / \ / \   / \ / \ / \ / \
( o | r ) ( t | h | i | s )
 \_/ \_/   \_/ \_/ \_/ \_/

You can learn all about figlets and create your own by visiting the FIGLET website.

ADVANCED ASCII ARTWORK

       .      .'
          :`...' `.,'  '
      `.  ' .**.  ; ; ':
      ` ``:`****,'  .' :
    ..::.  ``**":.''   `.               The examples so far have
  .:    `: ; `,'        :               been pretty basic, but there
    `:    `   :         ;               are ASCII artists who produce
      :   :   :        ;                some pretty amazing images.
      :    :   :     .:
       :    :   :..,'  ``::.
       `....:..'  ..:;''
        .:   . ...::::                  This rose is just one example
       ,'''''``:::::::                  of the work you can sample
                 `::::                  at the Signature Museum.
                   `::.
                    `::
             . ,.    ::::'      ,..
           .'.'  ``.  ::      .'.. `.
         '        .: ::    ,'.'     .
        .' ,'    .::::::   ,.'    .:::.
      .' .'  ..:'     ::: .,   .;'     ~
     ,;::;.::''        ::.:..::'
    ~                  ::;'
                       ::               The ASCII Art section there
                     ,:::               has pages devoted to
                       ::.              Animals, Christmas, Easter,
                        ::              Flora, Love. Misc, Music
                        ::              and People.  Find it at
                        ::

ASCII Signature Museum

ASCII MOVIES

This next site is truly asciimazing. It's a condensed version of the original Star Wars movie, done with ASCII animation. STAR WARS in ASCIImation is achieved by displaying frames of painstakingly composed ASCII text one after the other. You MUST see this one. :-)

Roman Messmer in Switzerland has taken ASCII art to a whole new level -- ASCII Movies. Messmer has created scenes from The Matrix, Spiderman, The Terminator, Harry Potter, Nemo and others in stunning asciimation. When I last checked his website, it was offline. But many of his ASCII movies are still available via the Wayback Machine's archive.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

If you thought those were kind of nifty, you will be amazed at the ASCII images you can find hidden in the corners of the web. Many of them are in COLOR and incredibly detailed. Here's a sampling of what you'll find:

Famous Paintings (and many other ASCII art categories)

ROLL YOUR OWN

The ASCII Art Generator will take any image and convert it to color or monochrome Ascii Art. You can also convert text to Ascii Banners.

And if you want to go really old school, do it with a typewriter. This guy mastered the art, despite his disability.

Wanna learn more about ASCII art? See the ASCII Art Dictionary. You'll find info on the various styles of ASCII art, how to create your own, and links to some other fun ASCII art pages. Have a little fun with ASCII art. It's a wonderfully rich, low-tech, and very accessible medium to express yourself!


/ _\ ___  ___  /\_/\___  _   _    / /  __ _| |_ ___ _ __  
\ \ / _ \/ _ \ \_ _/ _ \| | | |  / /  / _` | __/ _ \ '__/
_\ \  __/  __/  / \ (_) | |_| | / /__| (_| | ||  __/ |  
\__/\___|\___|  \_/\___/ \__,_| \____/\__,_|\__\___|_| 

ASCII art is one of the treasures of the early days of the Internet. I hope you've enjoyed this topic, and will pass along the link to others! Do you know of other ASCII art websites? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "ASCII Artwork - An Internet Treasure"

Posted by:

CharlesH
09 Jul 2019

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Posted by:

CharlesH
09 Jul 2019

Sorry that didn't work out here.

It was Thanks, Bob. in ASCII text.


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
09 Jul 2019

Not forgetting that what we call ASCII art predated the ASCII standard (1960), and even computers, and was then produced painstakingly on typewriters ;-3)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Oh right! This guy was a master of typewriter art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svzPm8lT36o


Posted by:

Charley
09 Jul 2019

Also, prior to the Internet, there was art printed on mainframe line printers. (Character set wasn't always ascii -- depended the computer system. The IBM 360 used EBCDIC.) It was common for the students to print out a naked lady on the printer.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Or the Starship Enterprise. These printouts could be several feet long.


Posted by:

NB
09 Jul 2019



,;:;;,
;;;;;
.=', ;:;;:,
/_', "=. ';:;:;
@=:__, \,;:;:'
_(\.= ;:;;'
`"_( _/="`
`"'``



Posted by:

BillC
09 Jul 2019

What didn't work out CharlesH? I'm reading "Thanks, Bob. in big bold letters made of hash tags, sorry forgot their REAL name :)


Posted by:

Davor
09 Jul 2019

Bob, the Internet tourbus brings back the memories. the early days of the internet.
Wasn't Patrick Crispen a contributor then?
He used to have an ASCII squirrel pictured in his posts, right?

https://netsquirrel.com/crispen/about_crispen.html


Posted by:

Diane
09 Jul 2019

Long before computers - i. e. 1960's - I was a teletype operator. At Christmas we'd make a tape that would be a picture applicable to the season. It was always fun to make these tapes and send them out but it as also fun to see what other offices would send to us.


Posted by:

Bob K
09 Jul 2019

Don't forget the days of Teletypes and paper tape controlled typewriters like the Flexowriters.

One "gotcha" these days is the display must use fixed-width fonts. So many computer programs want to change things over to variable-width fonts, and then things just don't work out.


Posted by:

Robert Norway
10 Jul 2019

Yep... use it in my signature....

~~~~~
 Õ¿Õ¬
  ~~
   V

Posted by:

D.V.N. Sarma
10 Jul 2019

The good old Tourbus.
Bor, I remember that there was a site where old masters' paintings were rendered in coloured ASCII.


Posted by:

Tim McCubbins
10 Jul 2019

This brought back so many memories!! Thanks Bob!


Posted by:

Bob Kinsler
12 Jul 2019

Reminds me of the old use of ASCII on a old style printer that would pop up on the printer located within the office of the Army Chief of Staff office, undressing the current administration assistant (female-Captain). One of my missions was to get a call from the Army Chief of Staff to go down into the basement of the Pentagon and tell the offenders to stop the Craig Super Computer program that sent it (hint, the Chief of Staff at the time was General Westmoreland).


Posted by:

Jack
12 Jul 2019

Robert N:

Looks like Drew Carey.


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