ASCII art from 1934


This "typewriter drawing" and accompanying letter of love/apology are dated from 1934 and come from the excellent blog Square America (which published them some months ago, but I'm just seeing them now, thanks Jesse Thorn).

The Boat Lullabies


  1. many years ago, I was lucky eough to watch and get typewriter art done by a young Vietnamese seretary. it was incredible. Apparently, very common – she wrote a poem, and decorated the page, in color (had a color ribbon) with critters – birds, etc. Flowers, vines. it was amazing.

    sadly, that burned in a fire with everything else I owned in 1987, bit I can still see her creating it.

    ah that was something.

  2. I have something like this: my Grandma made it in high school in 1922. it’s of the statue of liberty, in the letter ‘m’.

  3. Nice.

    In ’75 my family was stationed overseas, and the local USGS newsletter would publish typewriter art, but run-length encoded as a puzzle/timewaster for the reader.

    Loved em. Probably my first hands-on exposure to digitally transmitted data.

  4. We used to make those in my 6th grade typing class back in the mid 70s.

    “OK class, type 4 Ms, 12 spaces then 3 Is”

  5. A minor point, but it’s not ASCII unless it came from a computer, teletype, or some other electronic device.
    In 1934, typewriters were merely mechanical — thus no codes!

    1. And often not even then; Teletypes used Baudot codes and IBM mainframes used BCD then later EBCDIC, before the ASCII standard was agreed upon in the mid 60s.

  6. That must take some real skill though. With a PC you can just hit the backspace button until you get the desired effect. With a typewriter in those days, one mistake and you start over. “Last three X’s… Oh damn, forgot to feed the paper to the next line!”

  7. echolocate-and IIRC, those earlier character sets were limited to ALL CAPS making art even more limiting.

  8. Pictures like that were often made by Baudot teletype operators. The pros often made really fancy pix at Xmas time. They’d roll a picture into a machine, turn on the tape-puncher, and start typing. The tape could be sent to other operators over the wire, who could also turn on their tape-punchers. Some of that artwork was passed around for decades, including on BBSs in the 1980s.

  9. This is proof The Pirate Bay was there way before MP3 and DVD got invented! The person who made that ship on typewriter probably bootlegged vinyl discs and illegally recorded music from crystal radio on Edison phonogramophon wax cylinders. Maybe he even had a pirate radio station with tubes, used to share his illegal booty with others in the county. Maybe he had a steam engine in the garden shed to power the pirate radio. Steampunk rulez!

  10. I must be really old, cause I remember making stuff like this on my dad’s typewriter. Not in 1934 thought.

Comments are closed.