Monday, August 6, 2007

Analog obsession

ASCII-art is art that is created (usually on computers) by combining upper- and lower-case letters and numbers, symbols and other ASCII characters. Here's an example:
Andrew MacRae's typewriter ASCII art
Except that the above is what I would call retro ASCII-art. Why? Because it wasn't created on a computer; it was made using red and black coloured ribbons on a 1965 Olympia SG3 typewriter. The interesting thing about this sort of art is that it was inspired by new technology, but created using old technology. The artist's name is Andrew MacRae, and he has a blog with some of his artwork on it. There's a blog post on called "Andrew Macrae's analog obsession" in which the author admits that he "thought it must be computer generated somehow" because it's so expertly done. The artist's own explanation of his fondness for analog is interesting, and I particularly like the fact that he points out that "There's no spell check, no internet connection, no Solitaire and no Microsoft Word paper clip to tell you it looks like you're writing a letter, would you like some help?" MacRae is obsessed with typewriters in much the same way and for many of the same reasons as people collect records or write hand-written letters to one another.

There's something unnerving about the 'perfection' of digital; analog, complete with all its imperfections and faults like the crackle and pop of vinyl or the slightly off-centre look of a typewritten page, just feels more natural. Record collectors buy records because they prefer the warmer more authentic 'feel' of the sound, as opposed to the harsh clinical sound of Compact Discs or digital audio files; people who use typewriters do so for similar reasons, I imagine. mp3s don't have that distinctive smell like vinyl does, and a laser-printed page looks the same no matter what computer or printer you use, whereas a typewritten page will always be different.

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