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ASCII Art is a method of composing an image by using the symbols, letters or numbers contained in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) character encoding scheme. These images are often very complex and take up a large area to fully form the picture. While some ASCII artists are dedicated to more serious work, some artists stick with more humorous imagery known as LOL ASCII.
Though it is unclear where ASCII art originated, creating images out of letters dates back to as early as the 1890s. British typewritist Flora F. Stacey created eight artworks with frames made out of symbols using her Bar Lock typewriter. In 1893, they were displayed with the machine at the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1898, more of her work was published in the Pitman’s Phonetic Journal.
Between 1923 and 1929, Dutch typographer H.N. Werkman created a number of abstract artworks using a typewriter. He named the series Tiksels after the Dutch infinitive tikken meaning “to type.” In 2008, a number of these works were curated in an exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
In 1948, an instructional article on how to make “Keyboard Art” was published in Popular Mechanics. In the 1950s and 1960s, poets began to experiment with creating imagery with their works in what is known as concrete poetry (shown below, left). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, more people began exploring the world of typewriter art and one of the first anthology books of this type of work was published in 1975.
In the 1990s, two Usenet groups dedicated to sharing ASCII art were created, alt.ascii-art and rec.arts.ascii, which were active as early as 1993. Artists also began maintaining their own art collections on their personal websites. Additionally, other personal websites began hosting collections of art they found online. ASCII Art was first defined on Urban Dictionary on November 6th, 2003. Textfiles also hosts a large collection of archived works. In 2008, a subreddit dedicated to sharing ASCII artworks was created, gaining nearly 300 subscribers as of August 2013.
HIGH WEIRDNESS BY E-MAIL – not necessarily inane .sigs, or .sigs containing 20 lines of ascii art surrounded by a screen’s-worth of whitespace, | 10/25/92