Celebrating 35 Years
Of The ASCII Babe

Will Kelton went for a walk down memory lane when he stumbled upon He reminisced of days gone by and I enjoyed it so much I asked him if I could share it with the rest of my visitors. Here are his recollections...

Back in the day...the day being around '69... most output for pre-geeks just starting out was on tape...kinda like the old stock tickers. Fanfold paper was reserved for only the brightest and best.

But toward the end of the semester at The University of Pittsburgh student Prof Balasubramainian would test us. The mission was to create an assigned ASCII art character. Usually Snoopy or Charlie Brown or something else pretty tame/lame.

Of course I failed miserably...My ASCII Snoopy program printed something like one line to a page. The entire ASCII pic would have gone through REAMS of paper had the '69 version of a SysMod not spotted the paper piling up and shut the system down.

The wayward result didn't win me any friends in the computer department.

Still, I saw future in ASCII art. Pictures - graphics via machine....KEWL! Over the next few years and on my own I kept close watch as the ASCII art improved and what was driving it's development. I wanted to know what was the spark that ignited a programer's imagination to create an ASCII image. It HAD to be something more than cartoon characters.

It was. It was ... PORN.

Yes folks imagine the shock and dismay - not to mention arousal - of a young pre-geek to find that the driving force wasn't Man's desire to create, the search for truth or anything of noble goal.

It was base, it was crude, it was...KEWL! And Beautiful! And something that made all those late night hours at a keypunch/complier/printer station so much more rewarding than waiting for a "magic square" or COBAL output!

The deal was if everything worked correctly - your keypunched cards were read and complied....your program sent via microwave several miles to the main PDP10 machine...said machine didn't choke or crash or be down because of maintenance or
power outage...the output returned via microwave, the printer ribbon had ink and there was paper - you'd get this ASCII output. It was thousands of jumbled characters that at first seemed like a mess and waste of resources. But if you hung it on the wall, stood
back, squinted and used your imagination...IT WAS A BABE! NEKKID TOO! We're talking full frontal! Sometimes in a reclining, come-hither pose!

Not that a dateless pre-geek would know what a come-hither pose would be or be fully aware of how to make a ASCII Babe anatomically correct except from what had been published in Playboy or Penthouse -like those displays of The Female Form even remotely resembled anything a pre-geek would meet.

Still it was as closest most of us got to The Real Thing, and it sorta set up a competition. Who could come up with the kewlist, most attractive and especially most detailed ASCII Babe/Date for the Evening?

Needless to say I flunked that competition as well. It wasn't until YEARS later and thanks to the original TANDY machines and COCO's that I was able to sit down and do some reasonably kewl ASCII art and print it out on my home printer...IIRC its paper was 3.5 inches wide BUT it could do red, green, yellow or black ink assuming I had all the pens in place and they all had ink. Most of the time they weren't or didn't.

Plus by that time some poor, desperate, and surprisingly attractive female had seen something in me she thought was worthwhile, agreed to a few dates, and let me chase her till she caught me.

Wife was NOT amused at the time I spent working with computers...even LESS amused when she found the ASCII Babe programs while I was trying to initiate her into the computer world via showing her how to use machines to store recipes or do word processing.

So I had to say good-bye to all The Girls I Loved Before...sigh.

They are now only fond memories on lonely nights.

ALTHOUGH...(God PLEASE don't let Wife read this!)...I never did REALLY throw out ALL my early computer HW/SW! ...shhh... Up in the attic, under the eaves...back in the realms where creatures real and imagined baking summer heat and frigid winter cold...are cardboard boxes...boxes of TANDY/COCO stuff...including a few old SCSI's and ...ROXANN.

ROXANN was the first ASCII Babe I ever met/dated. With apologies to Wife I just couldn't throw her out. Met her back in the day...we spent many a long evening together, but kind of like Romeo and Juliet we never touched. We had to stay at least 20 feet apart and squint to enjoy our company. But she's still on the backroads of my memory, ever gentle on my mind...and somewhere on one of whose SCSI's.

Perhaps one day I'll gird myself to face those Creatures in the Attic, prepare to endure Wife's wrath and venture forth in search of reuniting with ROXANN. I'll send her this way for a visit if she's survived The Creatures and the temperature extremes of The Attic.

Or maybe another visitor to this website may have encountered her along the way as well and knows how to find her. If so it would be ever so nice to see her again.

ROXANN.EXE...I'll never let go....never!

©2005 Will Kelton

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