ASCIIs that are NOT ASCIIs – or are they?

Categories: ANSI, ASCII, history, Oldskool
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Published on: August 17, 2006

It wasn’t the first time that somebody said to me, that one of my “ASCIIs” is labeled wrong as such and should be labeled “ANSI”.

He was referring to what is also called a “Block ASCII”. He is right and wrong with his comment and I will try to explain that.

The Extended IBM Code Pages (Code page 437 in the US and 850 in Germany) are part of the 8-Bit DOS character set and a proprietary (ANSI) standard by IBM.

The Extended Code pages include several special Graphical Characters that go beyond the 7-bit US-Character set of 128 characters supported by any other Operating System on the PC and Mainframe including MAC, Unix and Linux.

Those special Characters are considered ASCII by most people that owned and used a PC (especially the PC Demo, Underground Art and Warez Scenes). It was referred to them as “High ASCII” or “Block ASCII” although they are technically not ASCII. Only the 128 characters that are part of the 7-bit US-Character set are truly ASCII.

ANSIs on the other hand were called documents (are called) that used special Escape Sequences for color coding and other features.

These documents require the ANSI.sys driver being loaded in order to view the document correctly. ANSI.sys was not required to display “plain” “High ASCII” characters.

Because of that and the stupid name Microsoft gave the driver to display .ANS files (ANSI.sys), did Tens of thousand (if not more) of people on the IBM PC and compatible classify ASCII and ANSI the way they did for over 2 decades. Yes, labeled incorrectly.

No scientific debate will change the past and I won’t start changing it either . The mislabeling was never corrected when there was the chance and when it became known, was it already too late. The incorrect terminology got already stuck in the mind of the users and could not be corrected anymore. Live with it!

Example. Here is a Logo that is indisputably an ASCII by all standards and definitions. This is the same Logo, the “Energy” NFO ASCII using “Block ASCII” or “”High ASCII” Style and now look at the “ANSI” Version of the “ASCII” using Escape Sequences for Color Coding.

I guess you have to live with this incorrectness as much as I did for over 15 years. If you want to learn more about the Styles used on the PC by the “Underground”, have a look at my article “The three Styles of the Underground Text Art Scene”.

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