In Brief: Typewriter Art as a Precursor to Modern ASCII Art

By Norman Chan

It was at one point considered a viable career.

Remember how I gave a shout out to The Atlantic's Technology section as one of my favorite things of 2013? Atlantic Senior Editor Alexis Madrigal keeps up his reputation with one of my favorite stories of the year so far, a piece on the history and typewriter origins of ASCII art. This illustrated longread doesn't start the BBS or Telnet origins of ASCII art--using keyboard characters to as a digital form of pointillism--it tracks the manipulation of typewriters as a tool for art back to the late 1800s. The practice of art-typing was dismissed back then too. Madrigal's piece includes a lot of insight into the techniques of art-typing, and points to a few resources for further exploration. I love that it culminates into an offshoot of the demo scene, where programmers animate their typed ASCII art that can be downloaded and played back locally or watched as a video.