Posted by: Jack Henry | October 1, 2019

Editor’s Corner: ASCII Art

Dear Editrix,

Is there a name for the art created using the letters and symbols on your keyboard? Or is it just called “keyboard art?”


Dear Mr. Fauset,

What an interesting question! I’m so glad you asked. I did a little research and found some amazing things out there on the World Wide Web. Most of this information is from Wikipedia, but throughout this article, I’ve included some other sites where you can go to find additional examples.

Even before the typewriter, people were using print to create art. This example is a handwritten piece of “word art” about the dog star, Sirius, from the 9th century:

After the typewriter was invented, people started creating “typewriter art” in the 1800s. Here is a modern-day artist who does some amazing things with a typewriter: And here is an old example of some early typewriter art:

As for similar types of art through the ages, as soon as a “writing machine” is invented, humans find a way to create art with it. From Wikipedia:

  • TTY and RTTY art
    TTY stands for "TeleTYpe" or "TeleTYpewriter", and is also known as Teleprinter or Teletype. RTTY stands for Radioteletype; character sets such as Baudot code, which predated ASCII, were used. According to a chapter in the "RTTY Handbook," text images have been sent via teletypewriter as early as 1923.
  • Line-printer art
    In the 1960s, Andries van Dam published a representation of an electronic circuit produced on an IBM 1403 line printer.
  • ASCII art
    [KC – And here, Ron, is your answer to what a lot of people call this kind of art. Sometimes it is also called “text art.”] ASCII art is a graphic design technique that uses computers for presentation and consists of pictures pieced together from the 95 printable (from a total of 128) characters defined by the ASCII Standard from 1963 and ASCII compliant character sets with proprietary extended characters….The term is also loosely used to refer to text based visual art in general.”

Here is a catalog of ASCII art for your viewing pleasure:

I hope this has helped cure your curiosity!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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