Archive for the ‘textart’ Category

Beyond Encodings: A Critical Look at the Terminology of Text Graphics

June 15, 2017

I used to write a lot about text art here in the blog, but it’s been a while now. I’m still very much into it, though, and I do update TEXT-MODE every now and then. Today, I’m publishing an article about text graphics in the Finnish academic journal WiderScreen’s new issue focusing on text art. It’s pretty great, I have to say, with contributions from active artists and scene researchers alike. Raquel Meyers gives a thorough look into her KYBDslöjd approach where she, among other things, disses the oft cited ideas from media archeology that old media are more or less dead. Gleb Albert takes an interesting economic approach to ANSI art in the warez scene. Daniel Botz talks scrolltexts, Dan Farrimond shows teletext works, and Tommy Musturi shares very interesting artistic techniques with PETSCII graphics. And there’s much more.

I’ve contributed with the text Beyond Encoding: A Critical Look at the Terminology of Text Graphics. In my text I give brief overviews of ASCII, ANSI, PETSCII, Unicode and Shift-JIS art; some of the most popular forms of text graphics today. Text graphics is my own umbrella term for these visual forms, because I don’t think it’s necessary to downplay the skills and work involved by calling this “art”. Just like with the demoscene, I think it’s a lot more relevant to generally consider these works as a form of craft. Raquel also touches on this topic in her text.

My key point though, is that I find terms such as ASCII art or PETSCII art to be more difficult to use by the day. After all, these are forms of encoding. They only stipulate what number each character has. A lower-case a is 97 or 129 or 65 or something else. That’s of course very important for the technical purpose of displaying it correctly, but mostly… I mean… Who cares what numbers are there?

It’s about time to start to look beyond the encodings to discuss and categorize text graphics according to other criteria. Which fonts are used? Are the fonts customized? What kinds of characters are (not) used? What style does it have? How many colours and what resolution does it use? How was it made, and which media is it presented on? In what (sub)cultural context does it exist? For these purposes, I’ve included a model in the text to look at the different material levels of a piece of text graphics.

I also suggest the term text mosaic to refer to text graphics that use blocks rather than lines. These are especially popular in Western ANSI and PETSCII art, but exist in all forms of text graphics where the font has block characters. Block ASCII, Unicode or Shift-JIS art based on block elements, Chinese ANSI, and so on.

Text mosaic is different from ASCII art. I think we can accept the popular idea of ASCII art mostly using line characters, and alphanumeric characters. You know, all the ASCII-converters work in this kind of Matrix-style. And this idea actually also exists in the ASCII art scene, where you talk about block ASCII if it’s not like “normal” alphanumeric line-based ASCII art.

In this way, we don’t have to fight against the dominant idea of ASCII art, but we can and should develop more refined terminology for when it’s necessary.

OK, over and out.

Two Years of Text-Mode

April 7, 2014


For the past two years, myself and Raquel Meyers have been running It’s a collection of text-mode graphics (ASCII, Unicode, etc) and related practices, and it goes back thousands of years in history. When we started it there wasn’t really any good place to find for example PETSCII or teletext graphics. There was plenty of ASCII and ANSI around. Sites like asciiarena and sixteencolors are incredible resources, but since they are not ‘curated’ you have to know what to look for. So we picked our favourites and posted it on Tumblr. Then we discovered a whole new world with the Japanese line ASCII at utf8art and the new Chinese BBS-graphics at ANSIart. And then we started to posts textiles, architecture, and other things that had a similar look as text-mode. Now there are more than 2300 posts!

On an average day we’ve made three posts with about 80 notes each (reblogs, likes, etc). In total there’s now 5000 images, and some videos. On ze Tumblr. Yeah. One thing that fascinates me with Tumblr is how quickly things spread around. And what kind of people that interact with it. It’s pretty cool to have obscure BBS-graphics being reblogged by both emo-teenagers and Bruce Sterling. But as the archive grew bigger we needed a better platform to search and browse it. And I’ve slowly started to write a sort of book on this topic, too. So something needed to change.

That’s why we’ve made – a WordPress site, where you can navigate the collection a lot easier. There is still work to do, but you can for example check two tags simultaneously to see things like typewriter art from the 1930’s, Chinese ANSI, ancient architecture or teletext art by Raquel Meyers. Or – you can get random posts here (highly recommended). Both sites are updated with the same content, but has been cleaned up and corrected, especially with the tags. Oh, and there is also a Twitter-account.

Go and check for example Advertising, Mosaic, Poetry, Scene, Square kufic and Toys. And other than the typical technical standards (ASCII, ANSI, Unicode) I can recommend ATASCII, FANSI, Minitel, PETSCII, shift-JIS, SharpSCII, Telidon, videotex and a lot more.

Alright, but back to Tumblr. How do our posts match up to all the memes, pr0n, hippish artish creative cool yeah stuff omg? Well, here are the most popular posts we’ve made, counting reblogs+likes. It’s a strange selection, that’s for sure..








► Animal Romantics

November 1, 2013

Animal Romantics (slightly NSFW) is an audiovisual maxi single. Or music disk. Or … internet multimedia? Demo? Net art? Whatever you want to call it – this is 7 songs with synchronized visuals in Javascript and PETSCII. The music, text & visuals blend together to describe the construction of a lady, who has romantic dreams about monkeys.

You can even insert your own text and get a custom link to insult your friends with! Made by Raquel Meyersevilpaul and Goto80 for the pl41nt3xt pavilion @ Wrong Biennale and Chipflip.


The song comes in one slow disco version and a faster vocoder pop version. They have been remixed by Limonious (the grand father of skweee), Steve (UK’s new king of FM-swing), The Toilet & Ljudit Andersson from the very underrated Mutantswing label, and finally a version from the don of Amiga disco, Dr. Vector. The whole thing runs in evilpaul’s text-mode Javascript library.


Works on most browsers, as long as you have a normal keyboard (hello mobile world).

Teletext Art – An Overview

August 16, 2013

If you describe teletext as obsolete, you couldn’t be more wrong. It is one of the most popular media in Scandinavia. Here in Sweden for example, teletext is still the #1 public service medium, and commercial channels still sell plenty of advertising for it. Despite public service serving people with decent content on tv and www, most of us can not stay away from teletext. It remains the #1 public service medium in Sweden, and in 2011 it was also the most popular app for the iPad, and the third most popular iPhone-app. Stick it to the hi-res man!

And you’re thinking: omg wtf lol why? I’m not sure. But it’s not due to a lack of fast internet. The access to high speed broadband internet is high around here, which indicates that “internet” is not a competitor to teletext. Teletext was not replaced by www, because the hi-res spam freedom of the web is no match for the editorial no-bullshit-no-advertising tranquility of teletext. Atleast not for the time being.


Now when that’s clear, let’s turn to teletext art. If context is what defines art, then teletext art is a quite recent thing. Early examples include works by Maki Ueda (Dutch TV, 2000), Jodi’s noisy Teletext (Dutch TV and www, 2002) and the xxxellent Teletext Babez by Dragan Espenschied (Dutch TV, 2001). Microtel (Dutch TV, 2006) was a group exhibition that involved plenty of people from the community. Page 444 by MOMS (Icelandic TV 2007) is also worth mentioning here, although the YouTube-clip has been removed since I found it in 2008.

We should also note Dan Farrimond’s The Pixel Is Power (2008), the first (?) teletext video clip I Will Glam (Spanish TV, 2009), The Sound of Ebay by Ubermorgen (www, 2008), För Text-TV i Tiden by Fredrik Olsson & Otto von Busch (Swedish TV, 2010) and fok_it by Joonas Rinta-Kanto (Finnish TV 2012). UPDATE: Also check out the conceptual Social Teletext Network (2013).

And of course, the International Teletext Art Festival is right now doing its second year, running in a number of European countries. I was asked to contribute, so I presented my Remote Control Music Studio. This year it seems to receive more attention than before, and will be featured at the prestigous Ars Electronica art festival.

sorry, I know it's annoying

The last few years Raquel Meyers has been doing plenty of teletext work, and I’ve been lucky enough to make music and stuff for it. We used teletext for live VJing at Transmediale earlier this year (Mind the Volcano) and at Bonniers Konsthall we exhibited Datagården – a teletext graveyeard, remote controlled by the visitors. In Datagården there was also a DIYobituary, with a video-camera/teletext feedback loop, as shown below.

These things ran on standard TVs, since it used the teletext inserter vbit by Peter Kwan. At the time this was the only affordable option for custom teletext, but now there are even cheaper solutions for Raspberry Pi (with less features, though).



If we turn away from the art world and consider teletext art in terms of craft and techne, teletext art is much older. Ever since the early years in the late 1970s people have been trying to master the craft of teletext. And it’s no simple task. Teletext only uses text characters (with semigraphic characters for the pixel-style) and 8 colours.

You can use control characters to change colour and size, aswell as add effects such as blink. But these control characters are shown as blanks, so changing a colour means that you have to insert an empty character. This is why there are usually thick black outlines in teletext graphics* and it’s also why horizontal compositions are so common. Below is a piece by LIA for the ITAF 2013 exhibition:


Almost all teletext graphics have been lost. It is not easy to archive for researchers since it exists somewhere “outside” the screen. For the TV-companies it would be easy to save the teletext pages, but I would be surprised if they ever did.

But hey – you might have a teletext archive at home! If you have a VHS-tape with a movie recorded from a TV-channel with teletext, you can play the tape and browse teletext as it appeared when the movie was aired. If you’re lucky, anyway. If you are one of those rare SVHS-people, chances are much higher.

Even so, there are still plenty of good teletext works online. We collect many of them at Go there and check it out (NSFW and meanwhile you should check these two teletext animation series:

Hands Up!  by Intelfax. A mindblowing effort! An animation series to teach sign language. It was done on a BBC computer (which had built-in support for teletext) using the Movie Maker software. Although it might seem absurd to do this in text-mode instead of using pixel graphics, this was likely a good option for long animations, considering the amount of memory available. Btw: teletext graphics was also (sort of) supported by the ABC80 computer, aiit.

Bill Geers painstakingly animated biblical stories in teletext are equally impressive to Hands Up and afaik made with similar tools.

If you want to dig more into the world of teletext, you should also check out its sibbling protocols: the interactive videotex used both teletext and more complex protocols like antiope (used by Minitel) where you could change the font, and telidon that also featured vector graphics. Check out John Fekner’s Toxic Waste From A to Z below. Finally, there’s telesoftware and the bizarre browse-the-internet-over-your-phone-in-public-on-a-specific-teletext-page thing  3text maffian (in Swedish).

* Pro tip: circumvent the blank control characters by clever uses of background/foreground colours and “inverted” characters.

Text-mode Can Show Everything That Pixels Can, So…

July 16, 2013

Handmade carpet by Faig Ahmed, 2011

To say that all digital graphics consists of pixels, is a bad case of essentialism that makes us stuck in a loop. Here’s the full story!

On a perfect screen, pixels are the most basic element of digital graphics. Everything that is shown on that screen can be described perfectly by pixels. Obviously. But that is just the level of apperance. If we look beyond that, there is other kind of information and quite possibly more information, like here.

The pixel is a metafor much like the atom is (see this). It’s useful for many purposes, but it’s a model that doesn’t reveal the whole story. The same pixel looks different depending on context. It’s changed by the screen’s colour calibration, aspect ratio and settings, and it looks different on a CRT, beamer and retina screen. The data of an image is not the same as the light it produces.

It would be easy to claim that the lowest common element of digital graphics is text. Anything digital can be described perfectly in text as data, code, content, algorithms, etc. After all, it’s not real computation. But it’s not that simple. As you can see in this video, it’s possible to write code by pixeling in Photoshop. So, pixels and text can be interchangeable and neither is necessarily more “low-level” than the other. Another nice example is this page, where you create “pixels” by marking the text.


From Click and play!

In the work with I’ve thought a lot about this. One conclusion is that text-mode can show everything that pixels can. By using the full block text character (█), text art works like pixeling or digital photography – as long as the resolution is high and the palette is big enough.

In other words: any digital movie or image can be perfectly converted into text-mode as long as it’s “zoomed out” enough. This sort of watch-from-a-distance style applies to many other things of course, like the printing technique halftone. Halftone is pretty textmodey, especially when you can overlay several layers of text, like on a typewriter or on the forgotten Plato computer.

Alright, so. Normal thinking => images consists of pixels. Abnormal thinking => pixels consist of text characters (both literally and figuratively). The carpet by Faig Ahmed above is a traditional carpet design that’s been pixelized in the top half into a typical “retro” pattern. The bottom shows the original, which has many similarities to other ancient crafts. And to (non-typical) text-mode works using e.g PETSCII or ANSI.

So: digital imagery pretends to be analogue film but it actually shares more with e.g textiles and mosaics, which has looked digital for thousands of years. To replace the pixel metafor with the text mode metafor is to bring forth the medium and its history, instead of obscuring it. It’s also a way to put more emphasis on the decoding process, since we all accept that a text looks different depending on font, character encoding, screen, etc. And that’s pretty rare in times of media convergence psychosis.

Text-mode acknowledges that its building blocks (text characters) are not some kind of essential lowest level entity, but something that always consists of something else. And that’ll have to be the moral of this story.

Realtime Text /2/ Interview with BBS-artist

December 5, 2012

The previous post was inspired by a conversation I had with Erik Nilsson, probably the only one who’s made a music video on a BBS. We talked about the 1990’s, when teenagers used BBS instead of WWW to talk. When you could see how the person on the other end of the modem was acting. I’ve added my comments [in brackets] to explain some technical stuff that Erik talks about.

ERIK > I remember as an early lamer, the sysops would wonder what the fuck you were up to. I remember the feeling of knowing that the sysop could be watching your every move. It was a bit like being in someone’s house, or in some sort of social club.

I remember the local BBS Secret Gate as one of the first places where I was accepted, and met friends. They had 3 nodes [phonelines = 3 simultaneous users] so you could chat with other users – not just the sysop. That’s how I started to hang out with Mortimer Twang, and together with Trivial we started Divine Stylers.

CHIPFLIP > Did you talk mostly about computer stuff, or also other things?

ERIK > I lived in an isolated place, so the computer was really a window into a world full of everything. Mortimer’s early mod music was my introduction to loop-based alternative music. The loopy and psychedelic aspects of dance music works really well in amiga trackers.

But there was also friendship, and pretty close conversations. I remember when I had my own BBS and my best friend called. We had fallen for the same girl, and I remember the chats we had about it. The pauses and the trembling made the conversation more tender. It was a really emotional talk, which I can still think back to and appreciate. It could have been through any medium, but I remember how the pauses and the tempo of the text made it more “charged”. I remember typing “I’m crying” and getting back “me too”. :)

There is a big difference in seeing the words take shape, instead of just reading them. It’s more personal. What you type is closer to the thought you have before you say it.

CHIPFLIP > Why do you think the real-time text isn’t around anymore?

ERIK > What was once standard no longer exists. It’s as if technology has taken a step back when it comes to text-based communication. I really don’t know why the intermediate step of pressing return has been added. It’s like you publish the text, while you used to say things more directly. The movement of the cursor reveals how the person is hesitating, erasing or contemplating.

If you chat on a BBS, you press return twice to signal that the other one can start writing. But it was still possible to interrupt the other one, if there was a heated argument for example. That doesn’t happen the same way in say Skype, because there is a gap between the users. It feels more plastic and more “simulated” than it has to be.

Well, when I think about Skype, which I use on daily basis there actually is a ‘function’ reminding about the old days standard in a weird way. In Skype you can actually see on a small icon when the person is typing and erasing, it’s really far away from the old chat style, it’s a weird verson of it in some way.. Still not even close to the thing I miss, but I guess someone was thinking about this gap when making Skype.

CHIPFLIP: And it’s more difficult to change your mind, too. Did you use the backspace often?

ERIK: Yeah, you erase constantly if you’ve learnt how to type street style. Erasing is just as important as typing. ;) I got really into animated text. It was a like digital thumb twiddling. You typed something, erased it, and replaced it with something new to make an animation. Sometimes you erased it because you didn’t want to keep it on the screen, like card numbers for example :) You typed it on the screen, and when the other person had written it to a piece of paper, you erased it.

CHIPFLIP > So one way to make animations on a BBS is to quite simply “type the animation”. And due to the slow modem speed, it will look animated when you play it back. But what kind of options were there to make the graphics on the BBS?

ERIK > There were a couple of different chat systems. The most common one was that each user had a colour, and you simply pressed return twice when you were done. There were also more advanced chats for ami/x, where you could move the cursor freely, like in a text editor or like the message editor in C*Base for C64.

CHIPFLIP > Was there anything bad about it being real-time?

ERIK > No. I mean it’s not the real-time thing that made it disappear. It changed because IRC took over most of the communication for the elite scene, since it was more global. When internet came real-time chat just disappeared by itself. It’s probably all just one big PC bug.

The situation is a bit similar to that of PETSCII [Commodore’s own ASCII-standard, with colors, plenty of graphical characters]. PETSCII is a better and more evolved system for text and symbols. It was more beautiful and personal to directly use the keyboard to write a letter to someone using colours, symbols and even 4×4 pixel graphics. Today you have to load images and change font colour in some menu to make a really spaced out e-mail. It’s slower, and it’s not “in the keyboard” like on the C64.

CHIPFLIP > What’s the best modern alternative to PETSCII?

ERIK > ANSI is not really an option, from my point of view. It’s typical “slow PC” style. Like some kind of Atari. You draw the graphics in a graphics program. Choose with the mouse. Draw fancy stuff from choices you make on the screen. It’s just like Photoshop.

PETSCII could’ve been a good source of inspiration for mobile phones, for example. But it needs an update to have meaning and function today. But how the system works, makes it the most interesting one I know of, still. ASCII is okay, but you still have to use a special editor to make the graphics. That’s a step in the wrong direction.

The C64 is like a synthesizer – you just turn it on, and get to work. With modern computers you have to wait for it to start, find the right program, and so on. They say that computers are faster today, but honestly – I have no idea what they are talking about! They only seem to get slower.

It’s strange, because computers were not supposed to become stiff and flat, like they are today. There’s all this talk about more convenience and speed, but from day one humans have only made it harder for computers to help us.

CHIPFLIP > A very broad explanation, also, is to consider analogue media as immediate (light bulbs, guitars, TVs, analogue synthesizers) and digital media as more-or-less indirect. It can never have zero latency and we seem to, somewhat paradoxically, accept that changing the channel on a modern TV takes 10 times longer than it used to. If you know Swedish you can read more about those things here.

Other than that, thanks so much to Erik for sharing his thoughts on this. Let’s fix the future!

Realtime Text /1/ Why Did it Disappear?

November 30, 2012

When we chat to each other, we don’t do it in real-time. Until we press return, the person on the other end can’t see what we’re doing. But it wasn’t always like that. Before the internet took over the world, you could actually see how the other person was typing. It is like a digital equivalent to body language; involuntary, unescapable, direct and intimate. All this was destroyed, as the return key gradually went from carriage return (↵) to enter.

Initially, the most mainstream example of real-time text I could think of was real-time captions for TV. It’s a service offered to deaf people in public service areas like UK and Scandinavia. It’s produced word-by-word (“chords“) and its mere existence adds a new dimension to TV-watching: you know when a program is following a script and when it’s not. There are many more real-time text services, often involving so called disabled people. Actually, there is even a Real-Time Text Taskforce (R3TF).

But wait a minute. Why did I forget about collaborative text editors like Etherpad or Google Docs? I use those very often. Great for having two people editing the same text. But they are also boring, I guess. I use them primarily for facts, lists, research, etc. Only a few times did I use them for something more playful or emotional. It’s like having fun in Microsoft Word. It just doesn’t happen, unless as an anomaly. Consider the difference to a less officey site like Your World of Text.

It’s not that it’s not possible to use real-time text. In fact, popular chats like Google Talk and iChat support it, but don’t implement it. AOL IM implements it but you have to activate it yourself.

Chat is a clear example of how new media makes things more indirect, by adding layers to the interface. Even if you believe that digital media only gets better, you’d have to admit that chat is an exception to that. Right? Chat is actually slower and less expressive than it was in the 90’s. Or even the 70’s with PLATO. Chat has derailed into some sort of primitive enter-beast, where you can’t even draw or use images.

Computer-mediated human-to-human communication is quite primitive, isn’t it? It’s like 1968 only with more layers to make it indirect and abstract. Layers of secrecy, as good ol’ Kittler would say.

In the next part, I will post a conversation I had with the BBS-artist Erik Nilsson. That was actually the reason why this post was written, so stay tuned!

► Omri Suleiman – Music For a 15 Year Old Me

August 26, 2012

A lot of chipmusic releases today is either “modern” or “chip”. Very few artists seem to pull off both, at the same time. This is exactly what Omri Suleiman does!

Music For a 15 Year Old Me builds on an oft-forgotten origin of chipmusic (crack intros) and fuses it with techno, house and UK hardcore from the 1990s. The results? A new future for chipmusic!

Stream and download for free at

Crafted by the long-lost Amiga scene musician Omri Suleiman, it fuses dancefloor bass with sound tracker magic to form a refreshing mixture of crack intro mystics and dancefloor energy. Occasionally it has a similar machinic atmosphere to that of early Autechre, and other times it sounds like skilled guitar solos and computer ballads. As a plus, the original files all fit on a single floppy disk!

As usual, Chipflip doesn’t try to emulate the album form. Instead, this is more similar to a music disk with its eerie PETSCII  interface by Raquel Meyers and GotoAT. The MP3-archive is also available at

Music For a 15 Year Old Me is Omri’s attempt to reach back to his teenage self, back when he was working with Amiga groups like Anarchy, Magnetic Fields and Scoopex. He was making chipmusic before the term even existed. Omri:

At that time maybe we referred to them more often as intro tunes, rather than chiptunes. The requirement that, after the copy protection was removed, a crack intro to publicise the group could be placed in the unused first sector of the floppy disk meant that the music had to be less than 10kb in size.

Eventually, Omri also started to perform in the London underground scene in acts like Afterglow and Invisible Technologies. They played live using two Amigas and a Yamaha music computer. While most of that music has been lost today (Raw EP on Beautiful Records is an exception), it is clear that Music For a 15 Year Old Me picks up on the ambience of Detroit techno, early UK hardcore and house. The process behind the release is also a nod back to himself:

To consider the only relevant audience to be, me, 20ish years ago – frees the creative process of considerations and conformities and fashion which can sometimes limit my approach to writing music.

In order to facilitate this concept, all of the songs have been produced using only a sound tracker type program (Milkytracker in this case), with the only sample editing being that available inside the tracker.

Which also means : no filters, no reverbs, no synths, no channel EQs or compression, no effects apart from those you program yourself by manipulating the pitch, volume or sample offset.

Here’s hoping that teenage Omri will pick up on this release, and respond with some more Suleiman music. To read Omri’s own words about this release, visit

Judaism and Japan: Looking for ASCII art theory

July 8, 2012

I’ve worked a lot with text-based works lately. There is surprisingly little research on ASCII art and related things. That’s why, together with A Bill Miller, I’ve written an academic article on ASCII art which will hopefully be published after the summer. It’s also quite difficult to find good archives or exhibitions. So me and Raquel Meyers started a tumblr at where we select some of the best works in teletext, ASCII, Shift_JIS, RTTY, Petscii, etc.

ASCII art, text-mode art, unicode graff or whatever you want to call it, is still quite an open field (atleast over here in alphabet-land). And, I might be wrong, but I can see an increased interest for it; after pixel art romantics and after the language-mania of social/humanistic science. Objects, biology and realism are becoming relevant again. So it’s time to see what happens with text when it’s used and understood as objects rather than symbols.

One important precursor that is rarely discussed is micrography, which shares some traits with contemporary digital text art. It is a Jewish form of calligram where graphics are built up from hebrew text characters. It came from the biblical hate towards images. In short: text is the only way, and images are not allowed. Doesn’t leave much choice for a visual artist. Great!

Israel’s ASCII art moneyz

It is not only an old and obscure rule. Israel’s bills are still made in accordance with this, as shown in the picture above (zoomed in here). So then the images are actually not images. There are several modern examples of micrography, which often overlaps visual poetryconcrete poetry, etc.

Unlike artists of the early 20th century who used text (Picasso, dadaists), micrography was basically a functional necessity. In that way it is similar to a lot of modern text art, that uses text-based media (Twitter, SMS, textboards). Another similarity is that the symbolic meaning of the letters are irrelevant in micrography (so in that sense it’s actually not a form of calligram). The text characters are selected for their appearance, not for what they represent. This is why, in 2SLEEP1, music was credited as instructions and graphics as objects.


Working with our text-mode tumblr over the past months, I’ve come to realise that a lot of the best text art is from Asia, mostly Japan. One explanation is that Japanese and Chinese are more popular than English online, so it’s a matter of quantity. Another explanation is that text-based media, like 2channel are extremely popular in Japan. It creates memes and characters that appear also in mainstream media. Perhaps a text-based medium can become more popular in Japan because there are more nice-looking and useful characters, but probably also because Japanese writing/reading works differently than here. Is Japan a more “text-based” culture, maybe?

I’ll leave you with an example of Shift_JIS ANSI, which is rather new to me. Colours and Shift_JIS characters ftw! Eat cheese, please!

By Gatchaman

Why Videotex is Better Than the Web

June 14, 2012

Videotex was one of the precursors to the web, invented in the early 1970’s. It’s a two-way communication standard that uses a standard television set and a modem, and was used for both commerce, leisure and art.

Viewdata is one form of videotex. In the USA it was mostly known as Viewtron, and reached some 15,000 users before it was cancelled. It was unsuccesful since most consumers simply do not have a need nor a desire to access vast computerized data-bases of general information (A. Michael Noll, 1985). But in France, there was apparently a need for exactly that. Minitel still had 10 million connections every month when it was shut down in 2009. (one reason is that the French government gave away plenty of terminals for free)

Videotex is slow and lacks graphical details. But on the other hand – it’s  easy and direct. You plug it in, and you’re set to go. Wi-fi. In the comfort of your TV-couch, instead of your computer work chair. CRT-lifestyle! No annoying operating system, no maze of protocols that control your interaction.

It’s actually quite easy to get sucked into the magic of Videotex advertising. There’s something very appealing with it. No more overload! No www-addiction! Oddly enough, it was actually markated like this already in 1983 – described as an alternative to information overload. Check out this video, for example.

My own fascination might come from growing up in Northern Europe, where videotex’s sibling teletext has always been quite popular. In fact, it is really popular. About 25% of Sweden’s total population checks out teletext on TV – every day. In Denmark it’s almost half! And it’s just not just on TV. There are teletext apps for smartphones that are some of the most popular ones around here. Last year, the most popular iPad app was public service teletext. Yeah!

Scandinavia is extremely into both internet and news. So these are informed choices, or atleast not a choice made from a lack of options. But is teletext just something that old people are into? Or is teletext used by young people too, as an alternative to the spam freedom of the web?

It’s likely an old tradition in decline. But at the same time, I can definitely see a demand for a cheap, reliable, ad-free service with Twitter-like shortness in the future too. And if you want to go a bit more luxurious with a two-way communication, videotex is your lady!

Also, it’s worth mentioning that teletext and videotex doesn’t have to use text graphics and a low amount of colours. Take for example the amazing Telidon, developed in Canada around 1980. It is an alphageometric standard that works with changeable fonts and vector graphics instead. Telidon looks incredibly good in my eyes. It’s a shame that the UK won the standardization war, otherwise teletext might’ve been even more popular today.

Or maybe the text graphics are actually part of the winning concept. More reliable; more serious. That might be. But just look at these Telidon wonders! (and if you want more, check out