ASCII Art Information
What is ASCII?
What is ASCII Art?
Where is the ASCII Art FAQ?
What is the History of ASCII Art?
What is ASCII Art good for?
Is ASCII Art dead?
ASCII Art Mailing List Information
ASCII Art Chat (web-based)
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What is ASCII?
ASCII (ask'-ee) is an acronym for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange." This standard was developed by the American National Standards Institute. It is a coding scheme which assigns numeric values to letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and other certain characters such as control codes. By standardizing the values for these characters, ASCII enables computers and computer programs to exchange information. ASCII is the basic coding system which computers use to communicate with one another.
The ASCII character set consists of 128 characters (numbered from 0 to 127) which are standard on nearly all types of computers. The first 32 characters (0 to 31) are assigned to communication and printer control codes-- non-printing characters --these include the control codes for signalling end of transmission, a beep, escape, 
backspace, and more. The last ASCII character, 127, is another control code representing the 'Delete' key. The other characters (32 to 126) are the ones which appear on a "standard" keyboard. These are the characters which are used to create ASCII art.
The ASCII characters used in ASCII art are the 95 characters from #32 to #126, as follows.
     032 [space] 048 0       064 @       080 P       096 `       112 p
     033 !       049 1       065 A       081 Q       097 a       113 q
     034 "       050 2       066 B       082 R       098 b       114 r
     035 #       051 3       067 C       083 S       099 c       115 s
     036 $       052 4       068 D       084 T       100 d       116 t
     037 %       053 5       069 E       085 U       101 e       117 u
     038 &       054 6       070 F       086 V       102 f       118 v
     039 '       055 7       071 G       087 W       103 g       119 w
     040 (       056 8       072 H       088 X       104 h       120 x
     041 )       057 9       073 I       089 Y       105 i       121 y
     042 *       058 :       074 J       090 Z       106 j       122 z
     043 +       059 ;       075 K       091 [       107 k       123 {
     044 ,       060 <       076 L       092 \       108 l       124 |
     045 -       061 =       077 M       093 ]       109 m       125 }
     046 .       062 >       078 N       094 ^       110 n       126 ~
     047 /       063 ?       079 O       095 _       111 o
There is another character set which consists of the ASCII character set with another 128 characters (128-255), for special characters such as the copyright symbol and various accented letters. Some people have inaccurately called this set "extended ASCII" or "high ASCII". These higher number coded characters are assigned to variable sets of characters by computer manufacturers and software developers. You should **NOT** use these characters in ASCII art, though, because they are not standardized -- even though the addition of more characters offers an opportunity for more flexibility in creating an ASCII picture, it really decreases the number of people who can properly view your creation. This defeats the purpose of the universalitality of ASCII art.

These extended codes are not as interchangable among different programs and computers as are the standard ASCII characters. IBM, for example, uses a group of extended ASCII characters generally called the IBM extended character set for its personal computers. Apple Computer uses a similar but different group of extended characters for its Macintosh line of computers. Thus, whereas the ASCII character set is universal among microcomputer hardware and software, the extended characters can be interpreted correctly only if a program, computer, or printer is designed for it. This is why these characters are not included in the ASCII art pictures. ASCII pictures can look very skewed if they have the misplaced characters in them. (Just imagine a picture with solid squares where someone had carefully placed a ¿ character!)

By keeping to the 32-126 range of ASCII codes, not only will people see your ASCII artwork as you intended them to view it, but you will maximize the number of your viewers. 

What is ASCII Art?
Essentially, ASCII artwork denotes pictures which are created without using graphics. They are "non-graphical graphics". Its palette is limited to the symbols and characters that you have available to you on your computer keyboard. Specifically those 95 which are listed on the above ASCII chart. International symbols, such as the UK pound sterling sign, are not considered to be ASCII characters because they are not universal on all systems.
In order to view ASCII art correctly, you must display it in a font that has uniform character width. This is also known as a "fixed-pitch font." Your browser should have some provision for setting a fixed font. Fixed-pitch fonts include "Courier", "FixedSys", or "Monaco". This is important because viewing ASCII art in proportional spacing will cause it to look skewed. ASCII Art is not made in proportional fonts because the letter widths vary from font to font. Even if you know what font the pictures were created in, it still tends to look skewed. ASCII art is universal-- but only if it is created and viewed in a fixed-pitch font and without any non-ASCII characters.
I get a lot of mail asking me why the ASCII art looks fine on my website and it looks skewed on their system. Check the font!!!! ASCII art **must** be created and viewed in the fixed-pitch font. (AOL and WebTV users-- you ONLY have capabilities for a proportional font-- you will not be able to see the ASCII art properly unless you copy/paste it to notepad or a text editor in the proper font; or unless you print it out). If you have general questions about fonts and/or text editors, please see the mini-faq.

See articles that I have written about ASCII art for various ezines.

ASCII Art article #1
ASCII Art article #2
Where is the ASCII Art FAQ?
The most recent ASCII Art FAQ (1998) is at this site along with Scarecrow's 1996 FAQ and Jorn Barger's 1993 FAQ. You will also find a mini-FAQ (1998) about text editors and fonts.
What is the History of ASCII Art?
I have collected some information about the History of ASCII Art.... If anyone has more information to share on this, please do so!! I am interested in the history of ASCII, typewriter, and other text art...
What is ASCII Art good for?
ASCII Art is the dinosaur of computer graphics. It can be useful since many people's e-mail programs do not view graphics files without the help of another program. Some e-mail programs don't allow anything except text files to be sent and/or received. And most people are leery about downloading an unknown attachment. Using ASCII characters to create a text drawing allows pictures to be added to nearly all email. The only catch is that the reader must view the ASCII art picture in a fixed-pitch font-- and nearly all mail readers have an option for fixed-pitch fonts.

Here are some good uses for for ASCII art:

  • to add pictures to text email
  • for illustrations of subject matter
  • to create flow charts or diagrams
  • for birthday/holiday greetings
  • for signature files
  • to liven-up dull but essential business email
  • to illustrate e-zines
  • for use on text-only webpages 

  • (some people still use Lynx and other non-graphical browsers, believe it or not!)
  • for use on any webpages

  • (text pictures loads faster than the large graphics and 
    many people turn graphics off)
  • to create coloring pages for children and adults
  • for use on BBSs (bulletin board systems)
  • for use on MUDs and MUGs (multi-user dungeons and games)
  • for use on mIRC (internet relay chat)
  • to print out for Holiday cards and greetings
  • just for fun and aesthetic value!
  • I like the ASCII art because I continue to be amazed at the number of pictures which that can be created from such a limited scope of keyboard characters.
    Is ASCII Art dead?
    With all its possible uses and grand history, it's hard to believe that ASCII art could be dead. However, according to the June 19th, 1998 NetlyNews, (link no longer active 8/00).  Microsoft has declared that ASCII Art is dead and has suggested that people resist the temptatation to use it. 

    Microsoft isn't impressed with ASCII art's popularity. ASCII Art is the most universal of computer graphics, albeit the most simple, and uses the least amount of bandwidth -- all one needs is a fixed-width font, and all computers have that capability. But not all mail readers have this type of font set as default-- namely Microsoft's- Outlook Explorer!

    A very common post on USENET's alt.ascii-art newsgroup comes from people who are having difficulty changing the Outlook Explorer default settings so that they can use their ASCII art. I'm guessing that Microsoft is frustrated with people asking them why their ASCII art now looks 'funky' on their programs-- Instead of addressing the issue with the software-- or telling people how to readjust the default settings, Microsoft has suggested that people simply not use the ASCII art. Afterall, if everyone purchased a Microsoft product, all could receive graphics and HTML codes in their mail programs... Why bother with the simple universal low band-width things like ASCII/plaintext?? It's dead.

    (BTW, if you change the default settings to a fixed-width font on MIE, you can see/use the ASCII art just fine!) 

    Another ploy by Microsoft to entice people from their ASCII art is the claim found at: http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/essentials/mailfaq.asp
    (link no longer active 8/00)

    The Microsoft's Mailing List User's Guide: stated:

        "DO exercise some restraint. Remember that a large
        number of mail and news editors out there are set up
        to use proportional fonts, and your lovely ASCII art
        won't look the way you designed it on those readers.
        Remember also that there's a Usenet newsgroup out 
        here whose sole function is to make fun of people's
        signatures. "
    What they don't state is that there are several USENET newsgroups that PROMOTE the ASCII art. The newsgroup which Microsoft is referring to is most likely, alt.fan.warlord. This newsgroup claims that its purpose is to "take the Mickey out of McQ's signatures" -- and when I checked last (in early July '99), there were 5 (FIVE) total posts to the newsgroup... certainly not a high-traffic newsgroup! And Microsoft wants people to be intimidated by this?

    In conclusion, Microsoft would probably like ASCII art to be dead, but in the infamous words of Monty Python, "I'm not dead yet!"

    "We are Microsoft. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile! "
    Current FAQ on ASCII Art

    Current Mini-FAQ- text editors& fonts

    Jorn Barger's FAQ on ASCII Art

    Bob Allison's (Scarecrow) FAQ on ASCII Art

    more information regarding ASCII Art (outside link)

    To subscribe to the ASCII ART Listserve Mailing list,
    Write in the message body: 
    SUBscribe ASCIIART <full name> ( <full name> is optional)
    After that, send any ASCII to ASCIIART@LSV.UKY.EDU
    To subscribe to the SIG-LIST Mailing list,
    email: sig-list-subscribe@makelist.com

    view past posts to the SIG-LIST mailing list
    (http://www.FindMail.com/list/sig-list/ )

    Come chat with other people interested in ASCII Art!
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