ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog


As an example of where my new weblogging schedule comes into play, I’ll be away in California all this weekend. That’s time I can’t spend writing entries, but time doing stuff. So let me dump out a variety of related topics.

The reason I’ve jaunted out to the West Coast is to be at the ANSI Gallery showing, the product of months of work by some very driven and crazy people. This is the event where a gallery, “20 Goto 10”, has decided to put a show on of ANSI art, that great event of the last couple of online decades. I did an episode of this subject for the BBS Documentary, so you know it has a place close to my heart.

This event is shaping up to be quite a critical mass of ANSI art sceners, all assembling years after they made ANSI a daily routine. In fact, it’s looking like dozens and dozens are showing up. We’ll see what amount actually, practically show up, but the point is that this subject still has quite a bit of meaning to a lot of people.

What’s inspiring is the work that acidjazz (the curator) has put into this. It’d probably have been easy enough to throw a couple printouts on the wall, serve some cheese and wine, and call it done. But no, there’s a lot of crazy going on. I think it’s the embedded ANSI devices that got my attention, circuit boards with digital cards attached that have a VGA output that displays ANSI. There’s large, long, back-lit plastic creations with art printed on them, meant to simulate the actual screen appearance of ANSI in its original form, but with the ability to see the whole work at once. This brings up a detail that is one of those minor contexts lost when the present looks at the past: this ANSI art was primarily seen as a 25-line scrolling window along a hundreds-of-lines vertical landscape, often doing so at a slow speed. When you, year-2000-flying-car-driving alien, view these things, you almost always do it instantaneously on a machine that can regard them at lightning speed, no delays, and even shrinking them down to graphic representation. At that point, you lose a lot of how the artists might have intended them. In other words, the gallery is presenting these works from both perspectives. One of which is basically lost to current technology. I like that. I like it a lot.

I’m hoping to sneak in a couple of GET LAMP interviews as well, just because opportunity presents itself. These are a bonus, although I’ve learned that sometimes one of those last little bits you get a hold of end up being among the most important. Ironically, the BBS Documentary’s last interview, Ebony Eyes, was itself about ANSI art.

In other artscene/demoscene news, I was given the chance to be a judge on what has turned out to be the last of the Text Mode Demo Competitions, or TMDC. This was TMDC 10, so for a decade the demogroup TAAT has been handling the administration, voting, organizing and contributions towards this contest.

What it is, basically, is a contest to do demos, but the restriction is that you have to do it in “text-mode”, that is, sans graphics or the use of a graphical mode.

Demo creation is an exploitation of limitation, or more accurately thriving within limits, and so the constriction of all the programming techniques into such a limited space (80 columns by 25 lines, ASCII characters).

Naturally, there’s been tweakings and pushing of those boundaries over the years, for example some use a limit of 80×50 instead of 25, and some have modified the character set, and so on. The judges knew this and gave ratings based on that. Also, some demos also used sound, and doing this sound was sometimes a pretty crazy trick in itself.

There’s been some annoying ones, some bad ones, but there have been a lot of great ones. It’s well worth to go back and check them out. And the TAAT fellows, showing the level of dedication and care they generally do, have created an ISO image of the 90 entries from the ten TMDCs. It’s available at their wrap-up site.

See you on the other side of California.

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One Comment

  1. The link to the Text Art Demos ISO is broken, just FYI.

    Shoot, you should have told me that you go that weekend. I might have jumped over to SF to meet up. Too late, next time.

    Anyhow, I was busy this month myself to put up some stuff on my blog that is probably of interest to you.

    1st this post about ANSI Animation, which is not the same as ASCIImation nor the same as a Textmode Demo. Check it out.

    2nd this post about the history of the demoscene. It has a video embedded with a 90 min presentation by Tamas Polgar, the dude who wrote the Brief History of the Demoscene Vol.1 and still owes us the Vol.2

    I don’t know if you knew about this video. The presentation was in 2005 at the Assembly demoparty, but I just came across it a few days ago.

    Carsten aka Roy/SAC