We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

How geeky is this?

I mean really geeky! But cool nevertheless.


22 comments to How geeky is this?

  • RAB

    Cool yes.
    But not new.
    It was called Concrete poetry in my youth.
    The words that formed the picture back then said things pithy and political rather than just code.
    Before that it was pointalism wasn’t it?

  • Midwesterner

    Ah, Adriana. You take me back to the good ole days of screaming chains of characters and clattering banks of hammers on the old industrial washing machine sized printers I used to run.

    These digital images were an art form and quite a few different hand coded files were passed around before the automated digitizing came along. (I even made one but I can’t remember what it was or if I still have it.) Some where I have a Mona Lisa and a ‘Merry Christmas’ banner (with churches, sleighs and other art) that runs half way around the room if I ever put it up. Printed on the machine that put a notch in my hearing.

    Sigh. I feel old.

  • Geeky, yes, but the pretty cancels out all the geeky and still has some left over.

  • IanP


    I concur. I can remember knocking out these things on my old Siemens 3 bank teletype. Somewhere I still have a murray code tape of the merry christmas one.

    Alas, we all getting older….

  • Midwesterner

    IanP, In high school, I entered my first programs on a Teletype 33 with a paper tape reader/punch, and foam telephone modem cups and rotary dial where the grey panel is in the picture. As I recall, we also printed pictures and banners on them with paper tape files.

    I was just bragging to Nick M. in an email a week or so ago that I still have a Flexowriter that is in fully working condition. Is that thing ever impressive when it starts slamming and lurching around!

    Adriana, I fear that Samizdata may be infested with past and present geeks.

    No, Mitch. ‘Geeky’ amplifies the ‘pretty’. A lot!

  • WalterBoswell

    Why it’s art if ye ascii me.

  • Midwesterner

    Oh no, Walter. I’m pretty sure it’s Adriana. I know it’s hard to tell with all them letters and such but it sure looks like her to me. 🙂

  • Indeed it is, Midwesterner!

  • RAB

    I’m coming close to the python shoebox sketch here.
    So beware!
    We used to do that kind of stuff on a manual typewriter.
    It took attitude and patience, looked like what you wanted and said what you wanted said.
    A mixed media manual experience rather than a programme.

  • Sunfish

    I think you should enter the pictures into the Obfuscated PERL Contest.

  • Nick M

    You swine!
    Somewhere on my many hard disks is a program I wrote which takes a gif and converts it into an ASCII file. I once sent my wife (when she wasn’t even my girlfriend) exactly 12 sheets of A4 with assembly instructions. It was baffling but assembled correctly and from a couple of meters away there was the face of Debbie Harry! It absolutely blew her flatmates minds. They thought I’d typed the whole bloody thing!

    I wrote it in QBasic (?!) though I’m sure at some point I did compile it to .exe via one of the many QBasic compilers out there. Well, I’m going to have to dust it off because it’s a bloody clever piece of programming and I was going to do T shirts and all sorts…

    So I’m just a little peeved because ASCII art is a medium pwned by me. You swine!

    I just got sidetracked trying to create a program that would do Seurat type conversions. Something which is very difficult to figure the exact specs for.

    Although I have to admit it’s not quite the same when it comes out of the Epson inkjet as when it’s hammered out by the something from Mid’s “Wisconsin State Museum of Defunct Office Equipment”. That really is suffering for your art. I do recall the sound of a nine-pin dot-matrix. The horror, the horror! The worst thing was that you had to stand over it because it didn’t have a bloody sheet-feeder. Amstrad PCW 8256, you were fucking awful. Thrill to the green screen, marvel at Locoscript, wet your panties over the unique* 3-inch floppies and the delinquent keyboard layout! Savour the exquisite pleasure of CP/M file management. Shortly afterwards I got to use a Mac Classic (still got one upstairs, still works) and that was so sweet…

    I still haven’t forgiven Alan Sugar for the PCW or screwing up Sinclair or the truly delinquent PCs he made in the 80s/90s (PSU in the monitor, anyone?). But… There is one Amstrad machine I’d like to get my paws on. In the early 90s they made a 386/486(?) with a 10″ monitor and very small desktop case. It actually looked exactly like a computer that had shrunk in the wash about 30% because everything else was to scale. It gave me quite a bout of cognitive dissonance when I saw one in Dixons. Does anybody else recall this machine?

    I’ve actually been thinking of applying for the next series of the apprentice just to berate Sir Alan over the non-standard arrangement of the pins on the joystick port of the Spectrum +2/+3. Ah well, much water under the Northbridge as they say…

    *Well, it wasn’t quite a unique format but very few other companies took up the 3″ floppy.

  • Midwesterner

    BTW, Perry. Does she know you’ve posted a character sketch of her? And a letter perfect one you might say. By a good margin.

    I find it completely consonant with Samizdata’s tradition of posting fine art. And of a special character. Certainly not a shiftless one. A capital idea.

    And modest, too. I think dipthongs would have been a little bit graphic for a (sort of) family blog. That would have needed paper view. IEEE carumba!

    For some reason I’ve got that song “The Letter” in my head.

    Well, I’ll bring this to a full stop now. My carriage awaits. But I might return. Because I like art of this type. Maybe you should hang it in a space bar. Where I could put P’s n Q’s on the tab. Before they take my keys.

    (Minimal sleep while doing battle with MacroSloth Ex Pee causes strange spells. Leaves me practically commatose.)

  • IanP: I can remember knocking out these things on my old Siemens

    I had to re-read that a couple of times…

  • Nick M

    You OK Mid?

    If you think XP is a laugh a minute you ought never to even look at Vista. It’s got more wizards than bloody Hogwarts. I was shocked by how utterly awful it is. The Aero interface is cute for about 5 minutes then it becomes confusing and annoying. After persuading Vista to work I then installed Works 2007 which is quite simply the most patronising piece of software imaginable. Why do people still buy this crap? It’s about as much use as Stevie Wonder’s ear-trumpet. I’ve spent more pleasant afternoons at the dentist.

  • Ah, Adriana. You take me back to the good ole days of screaming chains of characters and clattering banks of hammers on the old industrial washing machine sized printers I used to run.

    I too am having memories of underground computer laboratories (known to all as “the dungeon”), and huge loud line printers that used huge spools of paper and made a noise like a landing helicopter. Those were the days.

    My mood with respect to XP is not a good one today. When I was in Poland over the weekend, my laptop stopped working. Well it would start up, get midway through the boot process, and then give me a blue screen of death and restart. (I do love the bit where the BSOD only appears for about half a second, and you don’t get time to actually read what it says. Genius). I was horrified about the prospect of having something wrong with my hardware, but after watching it restart about 20 times, I realised that it was happening at exactly the same moment in the boot sequence, which did suggest it was software. Upon getting it home and screwing around unsuccessfully in the recovery console for a while, I had to eventually wipe the hard drive and do a complete reinstall, after which it was fine. Everything was backed up, so no permanent harm done, but lots of frustration and one evening wasted.

    No point to make other than “What a heap of crap”.

    And I see that Vista is just as insecure as XP. What a surprise.

  • Nick M

    Your point about the momentary appearance of the BSOD is duly noted. I would also lke to add something though. I just simply adore windows error messages. I recently had one which told me that the reason I couldn’t get the machine online was “modem failure”. On further enquiry it turned out that the reason for this failure was “an error”.

  • You call that geeky? There is a program called aaxine that lets you watch movies in ascii art on a text terminal.

  • Nick: Microsoft is the company with the legendary “Keyboard not connected: press any key to continue” message. It is hard to top that one.

    A couple of months ago I was running something which halted, and a box popped up that said “No error occured”. I kid you not. I actually even have a photograph.

  • Midwesterner

    Michael, what a coincidence. I got the 1/2 second BSOD while I was commenting this thread last night. Not a clue as to why and it didn’t happen again. This was AFTER I had restored my disk. (Theme from Twilight Zone)

    You should post that picture “no error occured” as a contribution and see how many bizarre error messages people can report.

    Rob Fisher, that sounds really cool. But I’ve quit smoking tobacco etc. 8)

  • Andrew Duffin

    I was going to say it wasn’t geeky, just dated.

    But it seems there are a lot of other old gits amongst the readership, who got there before me.

    Ah, well.

  • Sam Duncan

    Rob Fisher: Beat me to it! There’s an aalib plugin for mplayer, too. Watching episodes ofThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on it passed what may well be the geekiest couple of hours of my life.

    NickM: I don’t remember the 2/3 scale PC, but in the process of screwing up the good name of Sinclair, Amstrad did spew out the PC200, a supposed answer to the Amiga and ST with CGA four-colour graphics and no sound beyond the old PC beeper thing. It had expansion slots, but so ill thought-out was the design that any cards installed stuck out the top of the case. Awful, awful thing.

  • Nick M

    Sam, I’ve just Googled the PC200. Lord save us from such shite! No wonder I’d never heard of it and just defaulted to buying an Amiga at the time. Well, I was never going to buy an ST…

    …reach for tin hat…