My first exposure to computers was via alphabetic art in the third grade. A 1970s geek dad (father to my friend Brian Nicoletti), visited our classroom with a teletype machine, and connected it, via the teacher’s telephone handset, to a far away computer at the Olivetti corporation.
After talking a little bit about the mysterious arcane workings of a machine we could not see (we thought the teletype was the computer), Mr. Nicoletti found a way to reach us, by printing ream after ream of alphabetic art (I hesitate to call it ascii art, because I don’t know the character set that was in use. It could have been EBCDIC art). At any rate, we all went home happily clutching rolled up pictures of the Mona Lisa, Einstein, and the class favorite: Snoopy as the Red Baron.
A few days ago, I revisited those days by making this Instant Ascii Cam, which converts the image from your web cam (should you be lucky enough to have one) to alphabetic art. It’s amazing to me that Flash can produce these images at such high frame rates, when the sound of the teleprinter slowly making Snoopies is still fresh in my mind.