I've Always Wanted my Name in ASCII

Laura in ASCII textOnce upon a time a signature wasn’t much more than a show of good penmanship. Now a signature can be plain, just links, maybe a quote. Signatures in HTML are colourful and fancy but too clunky for downloading with email. I like ASCII art signatures best of all. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, your basic everyday keyboard characters. Its become a tradition for ASCII art to only use the characters you can actually see on your keyboard. If you get into the alt key the art becomes ANSI art.

ASCII art has been used for more than just signatures. MUDs, IRC chat, ezines and of course newsgroup and email postings have used ASCII art and emoticons (smileys). Some people have printed out the bigger pictures for kids to colour. One thing all ASCII art has in common is a monospace font. This keeps it looking the same for all computers. If you are seeing ASCII art all warped, jumbled looking, try changing your font to FixedSys or Courier New. When ASCII art is included in a webpage it needs the HTML tag pre and /pre to keep the characters arranged with all the spaces in place.

Signatures should be short but not too cluttered. If you can keep it under 5 lines you’re doing great. I’ve made some which are four lines, the acceptable standard. I think the netiquette police aren’t so concerned with the length of ASCII signatures now that HTML is getting more popular. Still, you don’t want to annoy people with your signature, usually. Keep signatures less than 75 characters wide. Longer signatures can wrap and then they just look like a mess of text. Don’t forget to include your URL and if you use ASCII art, the artist’s initials.

In July 1996 while still a Net newbie, I thought the pictures made with keyboard characters were amazing. Making the pictures myself seemed so out of reach. I didn’t even know what they were called. I searched for keyboard art, typewriter art, anything and everything I could think of. I didn’t find what I was looking for. Finally, I found a site answering newbie questions and they emailed back and told me: ASCII Art! The mystery was solved!

I made my first keepable picture January 1998 (with the help of Albert and Joan on the Sig-List). ASCII Art became my special outlet for the drawing I have always wished I could do. Its been a few years and a lot of ASCII later. I have some signatures I especially like, some art I enjoy sharing on my personal site and a few really great ways of promoting my projects online. People notice ASCII art. Not everyone has my appreciation of it, but it does get noticed. Some people, like my husband, say it’s outdated, a throwback to the 70’s. Little does he know, ASCII Art is still evolving and it started on typewriters, not computers.

ASCII art isn’t using a program to turn a graphic into ASCII text. Anyone can open a program, that’s not art. ASCII art is created when someone uses a minimal amount of data to represent an object. Of course, its not always easy to see, the whole eye of the beholder thing… But its really impressive what some people can do with just a few keyboard characters and a lot of imagination and creativity.

This was originally posted to the BackWash site, October 12, 2001. I wrote there several years before the site closed.

Two WordPress Plugins to Add ASCII Art to Source Code

Adding ASCII art to the source code (the HTML files) may not interest people who don’t look at source code.

The source code is an easy place to add ASCII art because those files open in plain text, no formatting or fancy fonts. So, the ASCII art shows up without much extra work, almost none in fact.

sourcecodegrrl

If you access your HTML files you can add ASCII art yourself, without the plugins. (See above). But, not everyone wants to do that.

WP Figlet

wpfiglet

WP Figlet is all about adding text created in ASCII art fonts (figlets). It even lets you choose which figlet fonts you want to use. The auto suggestions creates a figlet in your source code like this (you choose your own words):

wpfigletsource
It does work.

Source Code ASCII Art

sourcecodeascii

Source Code (although not updated in 4 years, also works). If you are timid about mucking around in the HTML files then either of these plugins will work for you. Source Code lets you choose to have the ASCII art in your header or footer. However, I found it did need the extra HTML code for keeping the formatting after I saved my text image.

sourcecodeascii1 sourcecodeascii2

One thing I dislike about Source Code is the lack of artist credit (artist initials). I checked several of the ASCII images available with the plugin and none had artist credits. I used my own ASCII image with my initials.

In the end… DIY.

Don’t be bashful about getting into your own source code. Skip the plugins and just do it yourself.  Once you access the file it’s very simple to add the ASCII art with the code for notes. (See the first image in this post, no reason you can’t do that yourself).

WordPress Plugin to Add ASCII Art to your Footer

I looked at 3 plugins to add ASCII art to your WordPress blog. This is the first one I loaded up and experimented with. It does work but may not be the results you wanted.

kilroyascii

There are no options to add the ASCII art to the bottom of your posts or pages. The plugin does place ASCII art at the very bottom of my site, under the footer.  Below is my first experiment. I was pretty neutral with the results. But, I’m a bit traditional when it comes to the font I use. The spacing was out, the lines between text. Also, the top line of my art was pushed to the left.

underfooter

kilroyproblem

I tried another ASCII, thinking a longer image would look better either way.

Adding HTML code worked to keep the formatting but, it shows up on the site.

kilroytagged

Still it is nice to have a little surprise for anyone who reads to the end. So I will keep this plugin and see how often I remember to change out the ASCII art images.

Blogging 101: Introduce Yourself

dragon slayerI have wanted to build an archive of ASCII art for years. I have masses of text files with ASCII art collected in files, some of it I even began trying to sort out. However, it is a much bigger and messier project than I expected. To start with, how do you sort it all out so people can find it? By original artist would be nice but – it is hard to be sure who the original artist is in many cases and I don’t think many people would be searching by artist since most have no idea who they were anyway.

Anyway, I create my own ASCII art. I began in 1998 with the newsgroups which are now a part of Google. Thank you to Google for preserving those old newsgroups – they even kept them current so you can continue making posts as if nothing has changed. But, the newsgroups changed and most people moved on when the spam over loaded the content.

I knew Joan Stark, Llizard, Veronika, Hayley and many others from those newsgroup days of alt.ascii-art (I may not have that exactly right, it’s been a long time). Joan Stark became a mystery, she just disappeared one day. I have tried to track her down but no luck.  Llizard and Hayley I did find and have sent notes the odd time.

But, the old days of ASCII art are gone. It isn’t used in email signatures now. Email became HTML and stuck with that. I protested at the time. It was doomed by marketing – people wanted to use HTML to spam email better. So they did, still do. But, I still have my email set to text only just to spite them all. Small and meaningless revenge makes me feel a tiny bit better.

ASCII art is not completely dead. It is sadly not always what I would call ASCII art. I will never think of mechanically produced text art pictures as true ASCII art. If you did not pick and choose each letter, number and character to create your picture then you don’t have ASCII art. Anyone can scan a picture into text – that doesn’t make it art just a copy of the original. You rely on the software to do all the work and software can’t replace a human who is less than perfect but can see things with emotion and use their intelligence to make unique choices. Machines lack that feature, so far.

Why am I putting up this site after all this blabbing about ASCII art…? I want to show my own work and I want to promote ASCII art as a whole. I don’t want ASCII art to fall off the sidelines into history as some dorky, geeky fad that time forgot.  I don’t like to see people mock it (that includes the computer produced art versus the human produced art). I want to see the ASCII artists remembered along with the art they created.

Is that too much to ask? Probably not. But, it is a pretty big project to take on. Wish me luck!

You can read more about me and my other posts for the WordPress Blogging 101 challenge and my other sites.

Find ASCII Art Online

It’s funny that ASCII art is still around, still popular at holidays. I started making ASCII art in 1998. I was active in the newsgroup for ASCII art then. The downfall that turned ASCII art from trendy to retro started with HTML email. It became tricky to send an email in plain ASCII text. For awhile people just used plain text, those who held on to their simple email that didn’t need graphics and scripts. Now you have to ask for plain text, if it’s even an option. I don’t think people realize all that HTML costs them bandwidth and adds to the cost of the Internet they use.

Anyway, I started making my own ASCII art again. I’ve kept most of the old art I made. A few got lost along the way. Today I found a ship in the bottle which I had forgotten about. It was on another site. Still had my initials, my artist credit with it. Nice to find it with those.

Here is a list of places you can still find collections of ASCII art, done by various artists at various times. For an updated list check my links.

The ASCII Art Dictionary

ASCII Picture Collections

Heart and Soul ASCII Art Gallery

Christopher Johnson’s ASCII Art Collection

ASCII Art Gallery.com

ASCII World

Sunny Spot Gallery

ASCII Mailer – Send an ASCII art picture in email.

ASCII Art Hidden in Source Code

Now and then if you look at the source code (the HTML code) of websites you can find ASCII art. Its like a secret surprise for those who dig a little deeper.  Have a look at – ASCII Art Signatures in the Wild.

You can add ASCII art to the source code for your own site or blog.

Choose the ASCII art you want to use. Make your own ASCII art or borrow art created by someone else. (Don’t forget to keep the artist credit/ initials with the work).

Open the source file in a text editor. Notepad (the software which comes with Windows) will work.

Pick the place you will add the ASCII art – make sure you don’t break the HTML code because that would mess up your site.

You need to add some simple HTML code before and after the ASCII art.

hidden ASCII art

 

This code prevents your ASCII art from showing on the page – instead it is like a note you have left to yourself in the code. Only people looking at the actual HTML code can see what you place in this particular HTML code.

Then save the file and close it.

ASCII art found:

Welcome Mat.co shares the code for adding a “Welcome” to the HTML code of your site.