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 (beyond the 128 characters of standard 7-bit ASCII). The term is also loosely used to refer to text based art in general. ASCII art can be created with any text editor, and is often used with free-form languages. Most examples of ASCII art require a fixed-width font (non-proportional fonts, as on a traditional typewriter) such as Courier for presentation.
Among the oldest known examples of ASCII art are the creations by computer-art pioneer Kenneth Knowlton from around 1966, who was working for Bell Labs at the time. "Studies in Perception I" by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon from 1966 shows some examples of their early ASCII art.
One of the main reasons ASCII art was born was because early printers often lacked graphics ability and thus characters were used in place of graphic marks. Also, to mark divisions between different print jobs from different users, bulk printers often used ASCII art to print large banners, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk. ASCII art was also used in early e-mail when images could not be embedded.
The ASCII art phenomenon continues to exist in the social and mobile web, even when constrained to only 140 unicode characters, as exhibited by Twitter channels such as @TW1TT3Rart and many others, tagged as #TwitterArt and #140art. Since 1867 typewriters have been used for creating visual art. The oldest known preserved example of typewriter art is a picture of a butterfly made in 1898 by Flora Stacey.
In the 1954 short film Stamp Day for Superman, typewriter art was a feature of the plot.
 TTY and RTTY
TTY stands for "TeleTYpe" or "TeleTYpewriter" and is also known as Teleprinter or Teletype. RTTY stands for Radioteletype. According to a chapter in the "RTTY Handbook", text images have been sent via teletypewriter as early as 1923. However, none of the "old" RTTY art has been discovered yet. What is known is that text images appeared frequently on radio teletype in the 1960s and the 1970s.
 ASCII art
The widespread usage of ASCII art can be traced to the computer bulletin board systems of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The limitations of computers of that time period necessitated the use of text characters to represent images. Along with ASCII's use in communication, however, it also began to appear in the underground online art groups of the period. An ASCII comic is a form of webcomic which uses ASCII text to create images. In place of images in a regular comic, ASCII art is used, with the text or dialog usually placed underneath.
During the 1990s, graphical browsing and variable-width fonts became increasingly popular, leading to a decline in ASCII art. Despite this, ASCII art continued to survive through online MUDs, an acronym for "Multi-User Dungeon", (which are textual multiplayer role-playing video games), Internet Relay Chat, E-mail, message boards and other forms of online communication which commonly employ the needed fixed-width.
Over the years, warez groups began to get into the ASCII art scene. Warez groups usually release .nfo files with their software, cracks or general illegal software reverse-engineering releases. The ASCII art will usually include the warez group's name and maybe some ASCII borders on the outsides of the release notes, etc.
ASCII art is used wherever text can be more readily printed or transmitted than graphics, or in some cases, where the transmission of pictures is not possible. This includes typewriters, teletypes, non-graphic computer terminals, printer separators, in early computer networking (e.g., BBSes), e-mail, and Usenet news messages. ASCII art is also used within the source code of computer programs for representation of company or product logos, and flow control or other diagrams. In some cases, the entire source code of a program is a piece of ASCII art — for instance, an entry to one of the earlier International Obfuscated C Code Contest is a program that adds numbers, but visually looks like a binary adder drawn in logic ports.
Examples of ASCII-style art predating the modern computer era can be found in the June 1939, July 1948 and October 1948 editions of Popular Mechanics.
"0verkill" is a 2D platform multiplayer shooter game designed entirely in colour ASCII art. MPlayer and VLC media player can display videos as ASCII art. ASCII art is used in the making of DOS-based ZZT games.
Many game walkthrough guides come as part of a basic .txt file; this file often contains the name of the game in ASCII art. Such as below, word art is created using backslashes and other ASCII values in order to create the illusion of 3D.
 Types and styles
Different techniques could be used in ASCII art to obtain different artistic effects:
.--. /\ '--' /__\ (^._.^)~
- Line art, for creating shapes
.g@8g. db 'Y8@P' d88b
- Solid art, for creating filled shapes
:$#$: "4b. ':. :$#$: "4b. ':.
- Shading, using different symbol density and shading for creating gradients or contrasts
|\_/| **************************** / @ @ \ * "Purrrfectly pleasant" * ( > º < ) * Poppy Prinz * `»»x««´ * (pprinz@...) * / O \ ****************************
- combinations used as SIG (signature) at the end of an email
 Emoticons and verticons
There is another type of one-line ASCII art that does not require the mental rotation of pictures, which is widely known in Japan as kaomoji (literally "face characters".) Traditionally, they are referred to as "ASCII face ".
More complex examples use several lines of text to draw large symbols or more complex figures.
 Popular smileys
The list only shows some popular examples for demonstration purposes. Hundreds of different text smileys were developed over time, but only a few were generally accepted, used and understood.
||yawn or surprised|
||with braces or sick smiley||
||tongue sticking out (silly)||
||indifferent; worried, amazed||
||gasp, surprised, astonished|
||smiley with glasses||
||annoyed, really? not surprised, serious.|
||huge grin, very happy|
|¬_¬ or -.- or -.-' or -_- or -_-' or = _ =' or m(||Annoyed, Sweat-drop, not surprised, Facepalm||ಠ_ಠ||A look of disapproval or disbelief|
 ASCII comic
An ASCII comic is a form of webcomic.
 ASCII Art Farts
ASCII Art Farts is a web comic consisting of selected or original ASCII art with an added caption, often offensive. The first "fart", as individual comics are called, is dated June 25, 1999 and new comics have been published daily since. The comics are credited to "tQn" (TRAN Q. NGUYEN).
 The Adventures of Nerd Boy
The Adventures of Nerd Boy, or just Nerd Boy is an ASCII comic by Joaquim Gândara between August 6, 2001 and July 17, 2007, consisting of 600 strips. They were posted to ASCII art newsgroup alt.ascii-art and on the website. Some strips have been translated to Polish and French.
 Styles of the computer underground text art scene
 Atari 400/800 ATASCII
The Atari 400/800 did not follow the ASCII standard and had its own character set, called ATASCII. The emergence of ATASCII art coincided with the growing popularity of BBS Systems caused by availability of the acoustic couplers that were compatible with the 8-bit home computers. ATASCII text animations are also referred to as "break animations" by the Atari sceners.
 C-64 PETSCII
The Commodore 64, which was released in 1982, also did not follow the ASCII standard. The C-64 character set is called PETSCII, an extended form of ASCII-1963. As with the Atari's ATASCII art, C-64 fans developed a similar scene that used PETSCII for their creations.
 "Block ASCII" / "High ASCII" style ASCII art on the IBM PC
So-called "block ASCII" or "high ASCII" uses the extended characters of the 8-bit code page 437, which is a proprietary standard introduced by IBM in 1979 (ANSI Standard x3.16) for the IBM PC and MS DOS operating system. "Block ASCIIs" were widely used on the PC during the 1990s until the Internet replaced BBSes as the main communication platform. Until then, "block ASCIIs" dominated the PC Text Art Scene.
The first art scene group that focused on the extended character set of the PC in their art work was called "Aces of ANSI Art," or "AAA." Some members of left in 1990, and formed a group called ACiD, "ANSI Creators in Demand." In that same year the second major underground art scene group was founded, ICE, "Insane Creators Enterprise".
There is some debate between ASCII and block ASCII artist, with "Hardcore" ASCII artists maintaining that block ASCII art is in fact not ANSI art, because it does not use the 128 characters of the original ASCII standard. On the other hand, block ASCII artists argue that if their art uses only characters of the computers character set, then it is to be called ASCII, regardless if the character set is proprietary or not.
Microsoft Windows does not support the ANSI Standard x3.16. One can view block ASCIIs with a text editor using the font "Terminal", but it will not look exactly as it was intended by the artist. With a special ASCII/ANSI viewer, such as ACiDView for Windows (see ASCII and ANSI art viewers), one can see block ASCII and ANSI files properly. An example that illustrates the difference in appearance is part of this article. Alternatively, one could look at the file using the Type command in the command prompt.
 "Amiga"/"Oldskool" style ASCII art
In the art scene one popular ASCII style that used the 7-bit standard ASCII character set was the so called "Oldskool" Style. It is also called "Amiga style", due to its origin and widespread use on the Commodore Amiga Computers. The style uses primarily the characters: _/\-+=.()<>:. The "oldskool" art looks more like the outlined drawings of shapes than real pictures. This is an example of "Amiga style" (also referred to as "old school" or "oldskool" style) scene ASCII art.
The Amiga ASCII Scene surfaced in 1992, 7 years after the introduction of the Commodore Amiga 1000. The Commodore 64 PETSCII scene did not make the transition to the Commodore Amiga as the C64 demo and warez scenes did. Among the first Amiga ASCII art groups were ART, Epsilon Design, Upper Class, Unreal. This means that the text art scene on the Amiga was actually younger than the text art scene on the PC. The Amiga artists also did not call their ASCII art style "Oldskool". That term was introduced on the PC. When and by whom is unknown and lost in history.
The Amiga style ASCII artwork was most often released in the form of a single text file, which included all the artwork (usually requested), with some design parts in between, as opposed to the PC art scene where the art work was released as a ZIP archive with separate text files for each piece. Furthermore, the releases were usually called "ASCII collections" and not "art packs" like on the IBM PC.
 In text editors
_____ ___ ____ _ _ | ___|_ _/ ___| | ___| |_ | |_ | | | _| |/ _ \ __| | _| | | |_| | | __/ |_ |_| |___\____|_|\___|\__|
Oldskool font example from the PC, which was taken from the ASCII Editor FIGlet.
 Newskool style ASCII art
"Newskool" is a popular form of ASCII art which capitalizes on character strings like "$#Xxo". In spite of its name, the style is not "new"; on the contrary, it was very old but fell out of favor and was replaced by "Oldskool" and "Block" style ASCII art. It was dubbed "Newskool" upon its comeback and renewed popularity at the end of the 1990s.
Newskool changed significantly as the result of the introduction of extended proprietary characters. The classic 7-bit standard ASCII characters remain predominant, but the extended characters are often used for "fine tuning" and "tweaking". The style developed further after the introduction and adaptation of Unicode.
 Methods for generating ASCII art
While some prefer to use a simple text editor to produce ASCII art, specialized programs have been developed that often simulate the features and tools in bitmap image editors. For Block ASCII art and ANSI art the artist almost always uses a special text editor, because the required characters are not available on a standard keyboard.
The special text editors have sets of special characters assigned to existing keys on the keyboard. Popular MS DOS based editors, such as TheDraw and ACiDDraw had multiple sets of different special characters mapped to the F-Keys to make the use of those characters easier for the artist who can switch between individual sets of characters via basic keyboard shortcuts. PabloDraw is one of the very few special ASCII/ANSI art editors that were developed for MS Windows XP.
 Image to text conversion
Other programs allow one to automatically convert an image to text characters, which is a special case of vector quantization. A method is to sample the image down to grayscale with less than 8-bit precision, and then assign a character for each value.
Examples of converted images are given below.
This is one of the earliest forms of ASCII art, dating back to the early days of the 1960s minicomputers and teletypes. During the 1970s it was popular in malls to get a t-shirt with a photograph printed in ASCII art on it from an automated kiosk manned by a computer. With the advent of the web and HTML and CSS, many ASCII conversion programs will now quantize to a full RGB colorspace, enabling colorized ASCII images.
Since the appearance of the first simple converter tools, individuals have converted images to ASCII art automatically and afterwards claimed that they generated the result themselves "by hand" via a text editor.
Images that were converted to text, where no touch up work was done after the conversion, can in almost every case be identified as such, at least by an experienced text artist. The detection of converted, software-generated text art becomes much more difficult if some time was spent by the editor to touch up the details that are typical indicators of auto-generation. The inconsistencies in "shading" in just one art piece are often what gives the software-created status away.
Still images or movies can also be converted to ASCII on various Linux and UNIX computers using the aalib (black and white) or libcaca (colour) graphics device driver, or the VLC media player; all of which render the screen using ASCII symbols instead of pixels. See also O'Reilly article "Watch Videos in ASCII art".