joan stark's ASCII ART GALLERY

_,,,_ .' `'. / ____ \ | .'_ _\/ / ) a a| .----. / ( > | /| '--. ( ) ._ / || ]| `-. ) _/-.__.'`\ || ]| ::| ( .-'`-. \__ ) || ]| ::| `/ `-./ `. || ]| ::| _ | \ \ \ \| ]| .-' / \| \ \ \ \ L.__ .--'( | |\ `. / / \ ,---|_ \---------, | `\'. '. /`\ \/ .--._|=- |_ /| | \ '. '._ './`\/ .-' '. / | | | `'. `;-:-;`)| |-./ | | /_ `'--./_ ` )/'-------------')/) | \ | `""""----"`\//`""`/,===..'`````````/ ( | | | / `---` `===' / ) | / \ / / ( | | '------. |'--------------------'| ) | \ `-| | / | `--...,______| | ( | | | | | ) ,| | | | | ( /|| | | | | )/ `" / \ | | (/ jgs .' /I\ '.| | /) .-'_.'/ \'. | | / ``` `"""` `| .-------------------.|| `"` `"`

If you aren't familiar with ASCII art, Joan Stark's website is the ideal place to find a complete introduction: https://www.oocities.org/soho/7373/ This site is an incredibly rich archive containing not only artworks but also a very detailed history of ASCII art, an interesting early digital art form which has commonalities with folk art.

I will share Joan's introduction of ASCII art here:

ASCII (ask'-ee) is an acronym for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange." This standard was developed by the American National Standards Institute. It is a coding scheme which assigns numeric values to letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and other certain characters such as control codes. By standardizing the values for these characters, ASCII enables computers and computer programs to exchange information. ASCII is the basic coding system which computers use to communicate with one another. . . .
Essentially, ASCII artwork denotes pictures which are created without using graphics. They are "non-graphical graphics". Its palette is limited to the symbols and characters that you have available to you on your computer keyboard.

Who was (is) Joan Stark? Just someone who really loved ASCII art, it seems. Googling her doesn't bring up much beyond this website, a brief Wikipedia entry, and a few examples of her work at old ASCII fan websites (this one refers to her as "The Queen of ASCII Art"!).

Joan's ASCII gallery is fascinating for the wealth of information about this art form; her own ASCII creations make up quite a lot of the content on the site. On a brief about page, she also shares some snippets of personal data: her favorite author is Stephen King, she has brown eyes, is a Star Trek fan, mother to four children. Her patron saint is Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost articles.

Anthony is known as the saint of lost things, so "articles" of course refers to personal items. But I couldn't help reading this as articles in the sense of texts. All the articles on Joan's site would be lost if it weren't for their preservation in the GeoCities archive, and for people like me finding them, and sharing them with people like you.

_____________ _ *** |.--- *** ---.| ( `\( ) * A Prayer to my || (`\( )/`) || `> /~\_I COMPUTER ANGELS: || > /~\ < || (_/ /\/ || (// \\) || \ \ Guide my keystrokes, ||___`| |`___|| jgs / / Keep my programs alive, `-)--|_|--(-' \/ Protect me from viruses, [=== -- o ]--. ` Back up my drive. __'---------'__ \ [::::::::::: :::] ) Amen. `""'"""""'""""`/T\ jgs \_/

While ASCII artworks are now a relic of an older internet, ASCII art grew from much older text-based art forms which far predated the internet and even computer technology. In the 1950s there was typewriter art. Later in the 20th century, RTTY art also emerged. RTTY stands for radio teletype — operators would send text-based messages to each other through a machine-to-machine communication process with the message printed out at the end for the recipient to read. Some creative RTTY operators figured out how to send pictures this way, using only teletype text. The RTTY art Joan links to is still live here: www.rtty.com.

. . : . '. . : . .' ._ '._.-'''-._.' _. '-..' '..-' --._ /.==. .==.\ _.-- ;/_o__\ /_o__\; -----|` ) ( `|----- _: \_) (\_/) (_/ ;_ --' \ '._.=._.' / '-- _.-''. '._.' .''-._ ' .''-.(_).-''. ' jgs .' ' : ' '. ' : ' '

The idea of lost articles is also relevant to ASCII artwork. As Joan discusses on her site, ASCII artwork flourished in the early days of the pre-graphic internet as a way to illustrate text-only communications, from adding interest to emails to giving visual depth to role-playing worlds. Her site seems to have been last updated around the year 2000. Even at this time, ASCII art was already under threat from the expansion of graphic options online:

This discussion of the ways in which Microsoft discouraged use of ASCII art is one of many examples of the ways DIY creators online were actively marginalized by tech companies seeking to instead grow their systems of communication and expression. Joan also cites a note from a Microsoft Mailing List User's Guide encouraging "restraint" when it comes to the use of ASCII art. Joan's take: "In conclusion, Microsoft would probably like ASCII art to be dead, but in the infamous words of Monty Python, "I'm not dead yet!"

She closes this text with the following:

"We are Microsoft. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!

Why was ASCII art so appealing to people like Joan? The challenge of painting a picture using only a limited number of characters was an interesting creative exercise; beyond this, Joan also notes the accessibility of ASCII art as an important advantage. Not only was ASCII art easy to copy from one file to another, "it is [was] the most universal computer art form in the world."

With vast advances in online graphic technology over the past 20 years, it's understandable that ASCII art fell out of favor. But it's still an interesting art form, and Joan's website offers a peek at the DIY-minded, accessibility-focused artistic community that once united around it.

Here are a few of my favorite ASCII artworks from Joan's galleries (the initials jgs are her signature). I continue to find these piece fascinating and technically impressive, even now. (Maybe resistance isn't futile after all.)

_.===========================._ .'` .- - __- - - -- --__--- -. `'. __ / ,'` _|--|_________|--|_ `'. \ /'--| ; _.'\ | ' ' | /'._ ; | // | |_.-' .-'.' ___ '.'-. '-._| | (\) \"` _.-` / .-'`_ `'-. \ `-._ `"/ (\) `-' | .' .-'" "'-. '. | `-` (\) | / .'(3)(2)(1)'. \ | (\) | / / (4) .-. \ \ | (\) | | |(5) ( )'==,J | | (\) | \ \ (6) '-' (0) / / | (\) | \ '.(7)(8)(9).' / | (\) ___| '. '-.._..-' .' | (\) /.--| '-._____.-' | (\) (\) |\_ _ __ _ __ __/| (\) (\) | | (\)_._._.__(\) | | (\\\\jgs\\\) '.___________________.' '-'-'-'--'
( ) ( ./\. |^^^^^^^^^| ./LLLL\. |`.'`.`'`'| ./LLLLLLLL\. |.'`'.'`.'|/LLLL/^^\LLLL\. |.`.''``./LLLL/^ () ^\LLLL\. |.'`.`./LLLL/^ = = ^\LLLL\. |.`../LLLL/^ _.----._ ^\LLLL\. |'./LLLL/^ =.' ______ `. ^\LLLL\. |/LLLL/^ /|--.----.--|\ = ^\LLLL\. ./LLLL/^ = |=|__|____|__|=| ^\LLLL\. ./LLLL/^= |*|~~|~~~~|~~|*| = ^\LLLL\. ./LLLL/^ |=|--|----|--|=| ^\LLLL\. ./LLLL/^ = `-|__|____|__|-' = ^\LLLL\. /LLLL/^ = `------------' = ^\LLLL\ ~~|.~ = = = = ~.|~~ || = = = ____ = = || || = .-' '-. = || || _..._ = .' .-()-. '. = _..._ = || || = .'_____`. /___:______:___\ .'_____`. || || .-|---.---|-. || _ _ || .-|---.---|-. || || |=| | |=| || | || | || |=| | |=| || || |=|___|___|=|= || | || | ||= |=|___|___|=| || || |=|~~~|~~~|=| || | || | || |=|~~~|~~~|=| || || |*| | |*| || | || | || =|*| | |*| || || |=|---|---|=| = || | || | || |=|---|---|=| || || |=| | |=| || | || | || |=| | |=| || || `-|___|___|-' ||o|_||_| || `-|___|___|-' || || '---------` = || _ _ || = `---------' || || = = || | || | || = = || || %@& &@ = || |_||_| || = @&@ %@ = || || %@&@% @%@&@ _||________||_ &@%&@ %&@&@ || ||,,\\V//\\V//, _|___|------|___|_ ,\\V//\\V//,,|| |--------------|____/--------\____|--------------| /- _ - _ - _ - _ - - _ - _ _ - _ _- - _ - _ \ /_jgs________________________________________________\
* . * . _\/ \/_ . \ \ / / . . .. .. -==>: X :<==- _\/ \/_ '\ /' / _/ \_ \ _\/\/_ \\// ' /\ /\ ' _\_\_\/\/_/_/_ _.__\\\///__._ * ' * / /_/\/\_\ \ ' ///\\\ ' _/\/\_ //\\ /\ /\ ./ \. ._ _. ' ' '' '' (_) (_) <> \ / <> .\::/. \_\/ \/_/ .:. _.=._\\//_.=._ \\// .. \o/ .. '=' //\\ '=' _<>_\_\<>/_/_<>_ :o| | |o: '/::\' <> / /<>\ \ <> ~ '. ' .' ~ (_) (_) _ _ _ //\\ _ >O< ' ' /_/ \_\ / /\ /\ \ _ .' . '. _ \\// <> / \ <> :o| | |o: /\_\\><\\ \/ ':' . ~~\ /~~ . _//\\_ jgs _\_._\/_._/_ \_\ /_/ / ' /\ ' \ \o/ o ' __/ \__ ' _o/.:|:.\o_ o : o ' .'| |'. .\:|:/. '.\'/.' . -=>>::>o<::<<=- :->@<-: : _ '/:|:\' _ .'/.\'. '.___/*\___.' o\':|:'/o o : o \* \ / */ /o\ o >--X--< /*_/ \_*\ .' \*/ '. : '
/\ /\ |`\\_,--="=--,_//`| \ ." :'. .': ". / ==) _ : ' : _ (== |>/O\ _ /O\<| | \-"~` _ `~"-/ | >|`===. \_/ .===`|< jgs .-"-. \===' | '===/ .-"-. .-----{'. '`}---\, .-'-. ,/---{.'. '}-----. | `"---"` `~-===-~` `"---"` | | .-------------------------------. | | | | | | | | | | | .--. | | | | ." o \__ | | | | _.-" ,( ` | | | | _.-" ,;;| | | | | _.-=" _," ,,;;;' | |\ | | .-"`_.-"``-..,,;;;;:' | |'\ | | `"'` `\`\ | |.'`\ | | /^\\\ | |'.'`} | | | } '. } | | | /.'`./ | '-------------------------------' /. './ _| _ /.`'./ (.\-/.)--------.__________________.-------{.'. { \6 6/ / \ `\.'`\ ( =\ /= ______/....................\______ \.'.\ \ /O\ | | }'.'} ) / \ | [[[[[[[[[[ === () () () | {'.'/ ( U U | ________ | `~` \(| |)| [[[[[[[[[[ === [________] | _w___w_:----------------------------------:_______ | [] [][][][] [][][][] [][][][] [][][] == ===== | | | | [][][][][][][][][][][][][][]_ [][][] [][][][] | | [_][][][][][][][][][][][][]| |[][][] [][][]|| | | [] [][][][][][][][][][][][__| [][][]|| | | [__] [][][][][][][][][][][___] [] [][][]|| | | [_] [_][_____________][_] [_][][][] [__][]|| | '--------------------------------------------------'