ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Green, With Envy —

Ah, it’s like Christmas, or maybe just like finding something broken downstairs. When a rush of people come to this site for the first time, perhaps because of a prominent posting or my causing trouble in other circles, the opinions arrive with them, variant and colorful. I find people with all sorts of opinions on the writing, and people with ready-baked positions on assumptions that I didn’t even recognize were assumptions. It’s refreshing, like a herd of buffalo going through your shower is refreshing.

So, buried among this flood of people, like clockwork, will be a sprinkling of people who will let me know their opinion on my aesthetics. Or, to be more succinct:


Of course, they express this in all sorts of ways, like “Jesus Christ My Eyeballs” and “I tried to read what he wrote but I could only make it a few sentences in before I had to give up for all the green and white text.” Now, we’ll set aside that there’s no green and white text and seriously, this isn’t exactly running through a wall of fire, but OK, I got it.

So then I go into this little side loop that I tend to do under such circumstances. I consider alternate configurations of the style sheet. I wonder about programming in some sort of cookie system to allow you to choose, which is much easier with WordPress now that I converted to it. I re-imagine a way I could flitter around the system and make some changes to get into the black-on-white bus and go down the line to mainstream acceptable, allowing these fine folks to concentrate on the substance of my writing, and not the eye-searing green of it.

But you know what?

I call up the weblog’s front page to look at it and begin this task, and I just stop dead.

I mean, I just sit there and I fuckin’ smile. Not an evil smile, like I’m putting poop in your mailbox. I mean the smile you get when you smell the boardwalk, or hear a forgotten song that played at your favorite dance. It’s the smile of nostalgia, of happiness, of a simpler time. I mean, I am in a total other place just by looking at my weblog.

I remember the 3279 I used to use at Dad’s work at IBM. The screen looked like this:

I’d sit in that side office while dad did his required work, and it’s where I first played Adventure, and Hunt the Wumpus, and a whole bunch of other stuff that was mindblowing to a 10 year old. I mean, it was just so great.

At school, I’d be using a bunch of Apple IIs. I don’t mean the Apple IIs with color displays. I’d be hooked up to one of these babies:

Oh, fine, it didn’t say “Linux” on the screen and it didn’t have a machine 1000x as fast sitting next to it glowing blue, but it would have the double disk drives and it would have that great glowing light on the keyboard and it definitely had this beautiful green monitor, with the sharp-as-a-tack letters on it and the clear font telling me that if I’d just sit down and play with it, magic would happen.

Hell, forget being specifically young. From when I was in my 20s, all the way to the present day, nothing tells me that fun is about to happen than seeing one of these around:

Trust me: adding a VT-220 dumb terminal into the mix is like adding a punch bowl full of alcohol to a literary event: cool shit will ensue. I know, just seeing that beautiful text there on that self-enclosed little machine, that the world is waiting for me and once I start typing, I will have things to explore.

I promise you, I sit down often and think about modifying the site. I think about the people claiming my site is actively hurting them without being the direct reciever of my insults and litanies. I know that for some people it must be like staring into the very face of Hell, the glittering eyes of The Unnamed One piercing into their skulls and leaving tiny scars on their retinas.

I feel for you. I want to help you.

I can’t. I am powerless.

The green wins.

Categorised as: housecleaning | jason his own self

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  1. Jay says:

    I like the green, i had my IRC client set like this back in the day, not sure why, maybe it made me feel “elite” or something, green on black feels raw, almost “Underground” even now, besides, I’m sure if reading your blog felt like someone had unleashed hell-fire on my eyeballs i could always “View, Page Style, No Style” within my browser (Firefox portable). There is… just no pleasing some people 🙂

  2. Thomas says:

    There sure was something very soothing about the old green-on-black CRTs. Nothing since then – TVs, RGB monitors, VGA monitors or LCDs comes close in the bits-imprinted-on-your-brain department.

    And it still works – Matrix should be enough proof that even in the 2000s, a pixelated green monitor gets to you on a very strange, deep level. They used that phosphor-green glow in that movie all over the place and it looked incredibly cool.

    I think my favorite of all the old monitors was the green CRT that some of the Commodore PETs in our school had. I’d love to have one of those around just to let it scroll BASIC listings all day. 🙂

  3. odd parity says:

    The green is beautiful. Just looking at that picture of the 3279 makes me feel giddy inside, and I’ve never even used one :-). I grew up with a Sharp MZ-80K, with its integrated grey monochrome screen with phosphor dots wide enough apart to be easily distinguished even from a distance. When I moved on to IBM clones, it was 1993 before I could afford replacing the Hercules monochrome monitor with a VGA screen. Even now that amber shade is one of my first color choices if I’m designing anything.

  4. steph says:

    along with changing the page style, there is still your rss feed, which shows up in nice crisp black on white. i forsee a rough transition as your eyes get old and the nostalgia gets mixed in with the fact that you can’t read it. ah well.

  5. Jim Leonard says:

    I was always partial to amber monitors myself.

  6. Ingvar says:

    My normal xterm colour scheme is “green text on black background”, but I grew up not on VT-220s, but on VT-102s and Facit Twists.

  7. jonno says:

    the cool stuff I played with was green, sure. but like jim says, the coolest stuff (that I never got to play with) was amber.

  8. Cristi Balan says:

    I’m one of those can’t (doesn’t want to) read text on your color combination, just as I don’t read text that’s too small.

    But, I don’t really come here for the design. So, I just use my own stylesheet that gives me big dark text on a yellowish background. The only problem I have is that I have to scroll all the way down past the sidebar to be able to read it. But I just read at least 20 of your posts in the last week. So, it’s manageable.

    If people can’t be bothered to make their own, they can at least disable the stylesheets and they’ll just have black on white. Since the feature is available in all decent browsers, it seems they don’t care that much about your posts to press the keyboard shortcut.

    Coming back to the green. For some reason, I seem to stand the green on jwz’ blog a bit more. Maybe it’s the choice of font family and size. A monospaced and bigger font might be a bit closer to a terminal :).

  9. relaxing says:

    I too grew up with amber monochrome. If there were any reason to have multiple stylesheets, this would be it.

    (I once worked out my preferred color scheme to be
    body bgcolor=1f111f
    font color=ffb440)

  10. grawity says:

    Green damages my eyes too, a little… especially on this !@#$%ty old laptop screen (which has absolutely no angle where both top and bottom of the screen look at the same quality), ClearType makes it even worse.

    Still, all my consoles (Windows cmd.exe, PuTTY, Ubuntu Terminal) are set to #00FF00-on-black. I have no idea why.

    Then again, I have that little bit of nostalgia or something like that…even though first time I used a computer was 1997 (IBM PS/2 with Windows 3.11 WG – I was 5 years old then), so I can’t really remember VT220, BBS and Usenet – only from :] and similar sites. I used to SSH to a remote server and type “mail” to read my mail, just a ye </nonsense>

    And I always have the “zap colors” bookmarklet in case of emergency.

    (A little offtopic: the red 3D-ish border for focused input/textarea fields doesn’t really match the rest of the site. Solid #004400 or something would look a little better.)

  11. Flack says:

    Every time I install Windows, the very first thing I do is change the “DOS Prompt” properties to have a green font and a big blocky cursor. It just “feels right.”

    My first home PC was a TRS-80 III (white on black text), followed by a Franklin Ace 1000 (Apple II clone) with an amber on black monitor. It wasn’t until we got our first XT that I discovered the glory that is green on black.

    I have a monitor out in the garage that does both, by the way. Mash a button down and it’s green on black; unmash, and you get amber. Everybody’s a winner.

  12. Ice Cream Jonsey says:

    I did think of this website when I saw that the choices for the GUI in Fallout 3 included green and amber.

  13. Tobias says:

    Well, the problem with your choice of green is that it punches you right in the face.
    The old green screen monitors had a much softer green, more like a yellowish green, but not as bright as the one you use on your website. And the black background of the screen was never really black, but more of a dark gray color.
    This made looking at a green screen monitor much more comfortable than reading your blog.
    I don’t care much, as I usually read your blog entries in Google Reader (with its terrible bright black-on-white color scheme. What did happen to these nice yellow-on-blue colors from my old CPC or Turbo Pascal?).

  14. Gene Buckle says:

    Green or amber on black is a Good Thing(tm). If you’d don’t like it, See Figure One.

    Age of Reason BBS
    Run on a real Apple IIe.


  15. hmvh says:

    Bah! Any colour scheme other than green-on-black would just about negate the very purpose of this site. Verdana is a good choice of font for the blog but like Jason so aptly said, the very home page with its courier ersatz-font certainly takes you back to plaintext pre-GUI days.

    Personally, it reminds me of the years sitting behind ancient ICL dumb terminals. Only after those finally got “upgraded” to PCs with monochrome VGA screens did it become evident how pleasant green-on-black really was for lots and lots of reading.

    Either that, or the green *is* burnt into my retina.

  16. Church says:

    I’m trying to wrap my head around anyone being (a) at all interested in your site, and (b) annoyed by the green/black color scheme.

    Nope. Can’t do it.

  17. Jeff says:

    I would sooner chew off my own arm than create a website colored like this.

    But it is absolutely, 100%, perfectly appropriate and proper for this site.

    It’s GREEN because that is the color of the past.

    Just please don’t go all uppercase on us. In the same way that SCAdians pass on the dysentery as part of the “authentic medieval experience”, so too should we pass on that.

  18. Chris says:

    All of the C++ console applications that I wrote for my company pop up with green text on a black background. As someone else already wrote, it just feels right to me.

    My second favorite is the bluish-white on black, which was how text appeared on a TRS-80 monitor, and third is the default whitish-on-blue of the Commodore 64.

  19. jas says:

    green on black makes total sense for most bbs sites, i dont even think i was influenced by when i did myspace/bbses and other bbs related sites…. BUT, i am always worried about people thinking i am copying so i change most of them to a different color scheme.

    green on black is just cool.
    my trillian theme is setup that way too.

  20. MC says:

    Green on black is fine unless you have a stupid antialias engine that makes it unreadable. Freetype/Xft in is such a stupid engine. It works fine with dark on light, but the reverse makes it really hard to read. All the characters are suddenly very blurry.

    I have turned on antialias for all GTK apps, so Firefox shows this blog just fine, but for people with antialias on, it would be blurry.

  21. Quag7 says:

    In addition to the green, most of the “complex” displays in a very readable manner in lynx. You do this full screen in a console and you got yourself some goodness.

    Practical? Probably not.

    I am a nerd.