History of the PC Ascii Scene

...As viewed by the eyes of one that lived it.

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(written by by Necromancer, 06-Mar-1998)

Note by Necromancer: Text taken in most part from a previous article in "The Product 2", but I had to update quit a bit of it.

Ascii Art as an idea coalesced into existence bceause people wanted more. They wanted more than just your standard Hercules display Atari or your Monochrome Commodore 64. To meet this demand, one singular artist, whose name is lost to the annals of history decided to take the plunge. Instead of text, he (or she) had the ingenuity to use the characters /, \, |, -, _ and whatever else came to mind to create words. An amazing idea.

And a perfect one. People latched onto this. Anyone that could display text could display ascii art. It was fast, compact, independant of platform type, and one group in particular set their sights on it the most, the then-thriving Amiga scene. It was perfect for Bulletin Board Systems, text-based adventures, for anything they could think of. Perfect then, and to this day for file descriptions.

While ascii dominated the Amiga scene, the PC scene was giving birth to an art medium of their own, ANSI. Colored blocks. Oh, the wonders. But there were people that weren't satisfied with ANSI, they had seen ascii art, and it had captivated their imaginations. Some people believe that demand creates supply, and because of this, ascii was tentatively introduced to the PC scene as an art form.

Tinyz, a member of the Amiga scene warez group Katharsis, recognized the demand, and started in on the supply. A one-man art group was created by Tinyz, and this introduced what had long been Amiga-only art (and previously Commodore 64, but not to the extent of the Amiga scene) into the PC art scene. Katharsis!Ascii was implemented in March of 1994. Tinyz soon found kindred spirits, and more artists joined Katharsis!Ascii, now known as plain Katharsis, or KTS. Others tried to duplicate Tinyz and the way he brought ascii art to the scene, but to no avail. Tinyz was the first to establish a true ascii-only art group in the PC art scene. Previous to Tinyz, there were only a few ascii artists that were as known as Tinyz, one of those being Piromaniak of TRiBE.But no one had the grip on the proverbial ascii testicles in the PC scene that KTS!Ascii did. That is, until Remorse rose out of the dirt and mooned Katharsis with it's hairy collective buttocks.

I, along with Necronite (then of ex-Union, Shiver) felt that our art wasn't the quality KTS was looking for, so we decided to start our own ascii art group, dubbed Remorse, and started in October of 1994. Originally, it was meant to be in homage to Tinyz and KTS, but it didn't quite turn out that way. Remorse quickly gained members that produced quality art, and was KTS's first actual competition. Oh, RMRS and KTS didn't realize it at first, but within a few months, Remorse spurred KTS's release of "THE-NME.TXT," which was one giant "I'm better than you" directed towards Remorse.

While the Remorse death/rebirth drama was being acted out (I'll exclude that from this -- you can find the history of Remorse elsewhere), several groups decided to follow in the footsteps of Remorse and KTS. But it wasn't until the year-long torpor of Remorse and the birth of Whodini's love child, Trank, that any of these groups started to thrive. With Trank, Whodini recruited most of the quality artists from the then-defunct Remorse and several new faces. A few of the members of these new groups started imitating the style of ts, K-Spiff, KXMode, Mr. Kite and Lord Jazz. With this wide-spread imitation came a division to the ascii scene: Newschool and oldschool.

Newschool was more than just the use of the standard /, \, |, -, and _. It didn't limit itself to merely an outline, it went a step further to add filling and shading. Several artists arose that awed the scene with their innovation. Artists such as Asphixia (aka J. Hale), Killa Hertz, Nuremberg, later on several artists from groups like s0ap (Sons of Ascii Prophets) and Noname, artists like Mr. Self Destruct, Discyple, Cain, countless others, all showing creativity and talent in the way they designed their asciis.

Unfortunately, the times of the great ascii art era appeared to have waned. Not many groups thrive still, Remorse is still around, being the longest lived group, along with Odelay and a few other smaller ones. The Amiga ascii scene also is not thriving as much as it once was, many of the older, once highly-active artists are no longer participating as they used to. The once deemed unstoppable momentum of the ascii community appears to be slowly winding down to a halt.

But have faith. We will prevail. We were here before you, and we will be here long after you. Ascii art has existed since before people used hard drives, back when you had to plug your Commodore 64 into the TV. It's not just an artform, it's an expression, a style. The creative process can never be stifled completely, and we will overcome.

Long live ascii.
Necromancer, March 6, 1998


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Useful Resources

  • ASCII Art Academy - articles and tutorials about ASCII art
  • Online Videos releated to text art, BBS, demoscene, SAC and Warez
  • ASCII Nudes Collection - 30 Years of "Naked" ASCII Art - 30 pieces of ASCII art showing nude girls created by hand by various different artists. A "boss key" feature is available too, which is interesting by itself, showing additional examples of great ASCII art without nudity.
  • "Morph" - ASCII Animation (ASCIIMation) using JavaScript created by Skylined. It "morphs" a number of ASCII pictures from one into another and finishes with a great "mandelbrot" fractal zoom.
  • "Star Field" - Another nice ASCII Animation using JavaScript created by Skylined showing a horizontal semi 3d star field animation like the ones that were popular in old computer demos and intros.