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You ASCII'd For It -- #2
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January 6th, 1999
  I've discovered that people either really like ASCII art or they can't stand it.  Usually those who don't like ASCII art argue that there are better forums to display graphics.  And these people are correct-- jpg and gif files are much more detailed and easier on the eyes... However there is more to ASCII art than it simply being a graphic.  It has progressed beyond being a low bandwidth computer graphic and has become an art form.

  I first saw a little picture of an ASCII bicycle and was just in awe of it.  Someone actually envisioned how parentheses could make the wheels of the bicycle -- I was amazed.  I looked around for more of these kind of pictures and discovered that they were called "ASCII art". (ASCII is an acronym for 'American Standard Code of Information Interchange.')  There was a USENET newsgroup for ASCII art, as well as a LISTSERV mailing list.  I immediately subscribed to both.  I found lots of ASCII art and even more requests.  Most requests were not filled, so I decided to try to make some of the things that people were asking for.

  Making the ASCII art is relaxing to me.  I must have an eye for it because it really doesn't seem that difficult.  Most pictures take about 15-20 minutes to create.  The larger pictures obviously take longer while smaller pictures are more of a challenge.  These ASCII pictures are used in e-mail, in ezines, on BBSs (bulletin board systems), in MUDs/MUGs (Multi-User Dungeons/Games), in mIRC (Internet Relay Chat), and for text-based webpage development.  Despite being the dinosaur of computer graphics, they are quite popular.  My website averages close to 1000 hits a day and I receive tons of personal e-mail (and requests!). 

   You asked if my Internet social life has changed, I would have to say a most definite yes.  Some people have called me an Internet celebrity, a "webutante", the "queen of ASCII art", and other very flattering names.  If I visit a mIRC channel, I often receive "op honors".  An Internet admirer bought me my most recent computer system-- something I would never have expected from a total stranger. Yes, there have been some very positive aspects to creating the ASCII art.  However, there also has been a down side-- I have been mail- bombed, impersonated, and nearly subscribed to hundreds of mailing lists without my authorization. 

Overall though, the good outweighs the bad.  I have my 16+meg ASCII art gallery on the Internet so that I can share the pictures with others and bring smiles to their faces.  Hearing how my ASCII art has brought people together or brightened others' lives makes it all worth the time and effort.  One gentleman even proposed to his now-wife via Internet with an ASCII art diamond ring that I created.  Gee, I get warm-fuzzies just thinking about that...  (I sure hope that she got a real diamond too!)

  I have created ASCII art in numerous categories.  I think the only area that I am missing is the 'adult xx genre' namely because my four young children view the ASCII art that I have made.  You won't find anything really nasty at my site.   I do have a strong mythos and fantasy section of ASCII art (385K).  Some of my favorite fantasy pictures include the following:

(view in fixed-width font such as courier, monaco, lucinda console, or fixedsys)

                            ,_   .--.
                            _)\ /    ;--.
               . ' .    _.-'   |   .'    \
              -= * =-  (.-,    /  /       |
               ' .\'    ). `))/ .'   _/\ /
                   \_   \_  /( /     \ /(
                   /_\ .--'   `-.    //  \
                   ||\/        , '._//    |
                   ||/ /`(_ (_,;`-._/     /
                   \_.'   )   /`\       .'
                        .' .  |  ;.   /`
                       /      |\(  `.(
                      |   |/  | `    `
                      |   |  /
                      |   |.'
                   __/'  /
               _ .'  _.-`
            _.` `.-;`/
           /_.-'` / /
                 | /
          jgs   ( /
               /_/



                        '-.,;;:;,
                         _;\;|\;:;,
                        ) __ ' \;::,
                    .--'  e   ':;;;:,           ;,
                   (^           ;;::;          ;;;,
           _        --_.--.___,',:;::;     ,,,;:;;;,
          < \        `;     |  ;:;;:;        ':;:;;;,,
        <`-; \__     ,;    /    ';:;;:,       ';;;'
        <`_   __',   ; ,  /    ::;;;:         //
           `)|  \ \   ` .'      ';;:;,       //
            `    \ `\  /        ;;:;;.      //__
                  \  `/`         ;:;  ~._,=~`   `~=,
                   \_|      (        ^     ^  ^ _^  \
                     \    _,`      / ^ ^  ^   .' `.^ ;
            <`-.  jgs '-;`       /`  ^   ^  /\    ) ^/
            <'- \__..-'` ___,,,-'._ ^  ^ _.'\^`'-' ^/
             `)_   ..-''`          `~~~~`    `~===~`
             <_.-`-._\


      ,                                                               ,
      \'.                                                           .'/
       ),\                                                         /,( 
      /__\'.                                                     .'/__\
      \  `'.'-.__                                           __.-'.'`  /
       `)   `'-. \                                         / .-'`   ('
       /   _.--'\ '.          ,               ,          .' /'--._   \
       |-'`      '. '-.__    / \             / \    __.-' .'      `'-|
       \         _.`'-.,_'-.|/\ \    _,_    / /\|.-'_,.-'`._         /
        `\    .-'       /'-.|| \ |.-"   "-.| / ||.-'\       '-.    /`
          )-'`        .'   :||  / -.\\ //.- \  ||:   '.        `'-(
         /          .'    / \\_ |  /o`^'o\  | _// \    '.          \
         \       .-'    .'   `--|  `"/ \"`  |--`   '.    '-.       /
          `)  _.'     .'    .--.; |\__"__/| ;.--.    '.     '._  ('
          /_.'     .-'  _.-'     \\ \/^\/ //     `-._  '-.     '._\
          \     .'`_.--'          \\     //          `--._`'.     /
           '-._' /`            _   \\-.-//   _            `\ '_.-'
               `<     _,..--''`|    \`"`/    |`''--..,_     >`
                _\  ``--..__   \     `'`     /   __..--``  /_
               /  '-.__     ``'-;    / \    ;-'``     __.-'  \
              |    _   ``''--..  \'-' | '-'/  ..--''``   _    |
              \     '-.       /   |/--|--\|   \       .-'     /
               '-._    '-._  /    |---|---|    \  _.-'    _.-'
                   `'-._   '/ / / /---|---\ \ \ \'   _.-'`
                        '-./ / / / \`---`/ \ \ \ \.-'
                            `)` `  /'---'\  ` `(`
                      jgs  /`     |       |     `\
                          /  /  | |       | |  \  \
                      .--'  /   | '.     .' |   \  '--.
                     /_____/|  / \._\   /_./ \  |\_____\
                    (/      (/'     \) (/     `\)      \)




                    ,_      ___      _,
               .---.| '. _.' , '._ .' |.---.
              /      \`\\'  :;:  '//`/.     \
             |;      |; \,_  '  _,/ ;|      ;|
             |;.      \_|\d| _ |b/|_/      .;|
             \;;.       /\_ /"\ _/\       .;;/
              ';;;.    |//( ___ )\\|    ,;;;'
                \;;;-"` \  \V V/  / `"-;;;/
                 \/      /  )-(  \      \/
                 |    , /  |   |  \ ,    |
                 ;    ;/   |   |   \;    ;
                  \   |    | . |    |   /
                   \  \    |;:;|    /  /
                    '. `   /:;:\   ` .'
                     |'.__/--.--\__.'|
                     |/`     |     `\|
                     / ,     |     , \
                    | /      |      \ |
                    ||       |       ||
                    ;\      / \      /;
                     \\     | |     //
                      \|    | |    |/
                  jgs  /    \_/    \
                      (      `-._   )
                       `-.       `-;
                          `\|`, \'._\
                               \/   `

                                          /|   /|
                                         / /  / /
                                        | |  | |
                                        ; /  ; /
                          ___  __      / .\_/ ,(   ___ 
                         /  {.' {     / ;;;/ ;;;`"`_.-'
                      .--'-./ .-'    / ;;;/ ;;' .-'
                   _.-` _  `;;\_,   / ;;;/ .' ,/
               ,-"` ;-= g>=- .; /  / ;;;/ ;',;;|
                \`__/_     ; ';|  | ;;;/.',;;;;'\___,
          _    ,=,-V-' __  ;;  _\ /.;/`.`.'` .,:---'
          `"=="  |_.-'`  7_;;  | | ;|  .',;;;;;/
                        /_,;'  /  \'\ `,;;;;;;|
                       {_,;'^ _\  /;;).,,,,,`'\
                      {_;;' ^|   /;/`.;;;;;;;-'`
                     {_,;'^  _\ //`.,..`_';/
                    (__;;  ^  \/`.;;;;;( ',|  
                    (__,;,^ .'`.;;,.`';;      _.-/
                    (__,';,/ ,;'.`;;;,._\  _.'  ( 
                     (__,';|/|;';;.';/` .-' _   /
                      (__,-';|; ;;;. |._  `//)_/
                       (_/ '- \,'``\ | `'.// 
                     .-' |'-' '-'';|/ ^   ';
                    /'-' | '-' '-' ;`;;.^   `\
                   /  '-' \  '-' '/\_, ';,  ^ \
                   |'-' .-'\-' '-'|  \_,';,  ^ \
              _ jgs \  /    '.'-' \  //\_,; ^  |
            ,_v\     \ |      \ '-( |;/ \_ ;   |
            v_\ `---_-' \      ;  / |;|  <_; ^ |
            (.-')(`` `'-'      | /  | ;`=';'  ;
             v  </             ||    \ `'`  ^/
                               ||     '-...-'
                               ||
                          __  / |_
                        v-=_;` __ `)
                        v-(_.-'  `v
                           v


                           ,_
                         _  \`\  )\  ,
                         \`\|  \/ |_/\  
               .-. ,    _/  `   '     |/\
               _> \|\,_'>               <__,
              `\      ,/\/\               /__  ,
               / _   / `/) >_,/\            <_/|
          _____\/_\._\'     ,   '-\  /\        /_,
         `-.\\_\\_\\} /|     |     >/ |       ` /
                    | D/    /    ; ` _\       .'
                    |    _.'|   ;   /        /_,
                    |    (_ | .'    _>        <
                    |, _ `,`\_    ,_/        _.'
                     \| 7/`\_;`  \         /_ ,     ,_   ,
          .===-._____ __`  ;  _.-'           /       |`\ /\
           \__/      '  `) | <             <'     ,_ \  Y |/\
              `> /'--,   `\|  `7         .-'       >`\| `   <__,
              '-` .-. \    \  /         / \        '-.        / ,
                 /   `'---'''`\_/|/\   _\. '.         \     .'_/|
                 \  ,_'-.._.        \_<      '.        \    `' _/
                  \ \\`""-._                   '.       ;     <_,
                   \ `';,   `-;-'                 '.    |      /
                    \  <__     \                    \  .'.'\_<`
                     \ /  \     \                    \/ /
                      '-==='   __'.        ;          ;'
                            .-'   ``'.    .`       ,  |
                        _.-'          `'-.       ,;'  ;
                       _>            .-`       .;;'  ; 
                      /__,/`\    ._.`             _.'
                      `      )   _>         _.--'`
                           .'   / _   ,   (`
                        ,'`    ,\/ >_/\    \
                     ,-' \_   < `      \    '.
                     '---` `'-`        .` ,.  )
                                   .'`. '_.-'`
                        jgs   _,-'`  ,-'`
                            .'  \_   `<
                            '---` `'-'-`
 

  The most misunderstood parts of ASCII art are the font, character, and signature factors.  ASCII art is designed to be viewed in a fixed-width non-proportional font.  These are the "typewriter-like" fonts where each character is the same width.   Many people are starting to use the proportional fonts such as Arial.  The ASCII art will appear skewed when viewed in a proportional font.  Some people then decide that they will create ASCII art or modify it to look good in their proportional font. What they don't know is that while their new ASCII art looks good to them, it can be viewed properly by only a very small population. Proportional fonts vary from system to system-- even the same name font can vary in width from one computer to the next!  They would be better off leaving the ASCII art in a fixed-width font so that others can see it.  ALL systems have options for fixed-width fonts.  It is the universal font style.

   Anther misunderstood aspect of ASCII art is the characters used. The characters utilized in ASCII art are the space and the 94 characters found on the average U.S. keyboard.  That's it.

     abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
     ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
     1234567890<>{}[]()/\|,.;:!
     "'`~@#$%^&*_+-=?
  These are the characters that make up the 7-bit ASCII coding scheme. Extended characters, or characters created by using the alt key and the alphanumeric keyboard, are *not* ASCII characters and are not equally recognized in systems around the world.  What might look like a British Sterling Pound character on one system could very well appear as some- thing else on another computer system.  These extended characters are not universal and can really screw up an ASCII art picture.  That is why they are not used.

  Also, most people don't understand what the letters are that are on the ASCII art pictures.  Most people sign their ASCII art creations with their initials.  For example, my pictures have a 'jgs' somewhere on them.   These initials are usually the only credit that an ASCII artist receives for making the ASCII picture.  ASCII art is mainly a hobby-- there is no big money in it. Unfortunately, there are people who think that the artist's initials clutter the ASCII art and therefore removes them.  Some people even take credit for creating the ASCII art that others have made by replacing the artist's initials with THEIR name. This is one of the most annoying and rude things that an ASCII artist can experience...  and it does come around.  You might be surprised at just how small the cyberworld really is.

   Few people know that ASCII art follows Internet copyright laws. Altering ASCII art or using/selling it in their programs could get them into legal trouble. Most ASCII artists don't mind their pictures being reproduced and shared so long as its use is of a personal nature, non-commercial, and the artist's credits/signature remains intact.

  There are several ASCII Art tutorials available on the net.  If you want to create the ASCII art, the best thing to do is to view as much ASCII art as possible, read the FAQ, read the tutorials, and then give the ASCII art a try.  All one needs is a text-editor and a proper font.

  Personally, I don't use a program or any software (besides Notepad) to create my ASCII pictures.  There are some programs that create ASCII art but the results are not very good.  These programs typically create 'solid' style ASCII art. Solid style ASCII art typically appears as a block of characters such as "$$$%%%&&&&" with varying degrees of shading. The results must be hand-manipulated (tweaked) so that the final picture looks nice.  I don't endorse any conversion programs.

  There is one program which is quite helpful, though.  That program is called FIGlet and it creates letters and numbers in large ASCII-fied characters.  FIGlet can be downloaded off of the Internet or used (without downloading) from the following URL:
http://www.surfplaza.com/figlet/

  There is much more information about ASCII art-- its history, tutorials, basic styles, etc -- please refer to the ASCII Art FAQ at:
http://webspace.webring.com/people/cu/um_3734/faq.htm

  One final word of caution.  I have found that ASCII art is addicting-- beware!

-joan

--
                             /:.:,                 ~
                  O          \::/
     ~          o            /|`     ~
          o     _ '  sSSs   /:|              ~
                 \\__\_SSSs/::|
      ,sSSs '     `--((S\SSSs/   ASCII ART GALLERY:
    ,SSSS_/ ,_        SS\\SSSs   http://www.ascii-art.com
    sS/`))\//        sSS//SSs
    S//|_(\/            `Ss'         sSSs,
    S\\|::\   joan stark          _, \_SSSS,
    SS` \:|   spunk1111@juno.com   \\/((`\Ss    ~
         \|__                ._     \/)_|\\Ss
 ~       /:::\         ~     \ `-.-""'  ///SS        ~
    jgs  \:`'`               /_.-'`-==-' ' 'SSs
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