Where there is technological innovation...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

There is ART!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

The History of ASCII (Text) Art

Since 1867, people have used the typewriter not only for printing manuscripts but creating works of art. In the 1890s, typewriter manufacturers and secretarial agencies organized public speed typing competitions. They also organized competitions for typewriter drawings. The earliest preserved example of typewriter art was made in 1898 by a woman named Flora Stacey. Not much is known about Flora Stacey except that she was probably a secretary. Her framed picture of a butterfly was published in the October 15th, 1898, edition of Pitman's Phonetic Journal.

The entire rendering of this picture was created with the typewriter -- yes, even the butterfly! The butterfly is composed of brackets, hyphens, points, oblique strokes, a single asterisk, and several "o"s.

The journal commented:

"We think it will be generally admitted that the illustration is in the highest degree creditable to the artistic ability, skill and patience of the lady, and to the unique capabilities of the Bar-lock for this class of work. It may be noted that in competitions for typewriter drawings Miss Stacey has been extremely successful.... An outsider, or one unaccustomed to the use of the typewriter, can scarcely realise what an expenditure of time and patience is necessary in order to successfully execute one of these curious drawings. The paper has, of course, to be turned and re-turned, and twisted in a thousand different directions, and each character and letter must strike precisely in the right spot. Often, just as some particular sketch is on the point of completion, a trifling miscalculation, or the accidental depression of the wrong key, will totally ruin it, and the whole thing has to be done over again."


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