Friday, 5 August 2016

Public Domain textmode art spelunking: Sports

1988 (?! Captured 1990 at the latest) ANSI art celebrating the Seoul Summer Olympics by Václav Pinkava. Nice rings! As the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio have just begun, I suppose I can put this post off no longer...
Sometime in September-ish 2015 I logged into Kirkman's SynchroNet telnet BBS The Guardian of Forever, to get an in-person sneak peek at the parallax-scrolling mermaid ANSImation Kirkman's technology had made possible and Whazzit had drawn sprites for, intended for release in the Mistigris 21st anniversary artpack. (Have I mentioned that we are currently soliciting submissions for the 22nd anniversary artpack?) Over the course of my account creation and login to this (formerly) private node -- then-intended exclusively for the use of him and his family (but now open to the public at telnet://, complete with other ANSI experiments!) -- I was exposed to some ANSI art (on a BBS? appropriate enough!) celebrating his family’s favorite professional sports teams (say what?!) ... and I was stopped in my tracks. In the whole of my dial-up BBSing career, which admittedly was only a 6-year window in the '90s, I'd never seen such a thing. The very notion that a computer nerd could have overlap with the obsessions of a sports fan seemed anathema to me. On further reflection, both fields' bottomless potential for aspie grasp over entire spreadsheets of abstract figures and esoteric minutitae make the existence of the "sports nerd" (like "health goth", a seeming oxymoron) reconciled as ... at the least, possible in my head. All the same, it's not something I saw any representation of in my years in the computer art underground, so maybe it's possible that celebrating these interests in this dovetailed way was something particular to the public domain ANSI tradition specifically.
This hypothesis was born out by the curations from's PD ANSI art slush-pile, which contained... a great deal of sports-related ANSI art, specimen after specimen out of all proportion to how prominently sports figured as an interest in the underground. Angling to give equal airtime to the newer, more iconic underground ANSI art tradition, I mined the Sixteen Colours archives for updates on the topic, but found myself turning up goose eggs for obvious searches for terms such as "Wimbledon", "hat trick", "Super Bowl" and "Home run". Perhaps it may not have been that artscene kids were anti-sport so much as that the '90s saw the rise of skateboarding, mountain biking, snowboarding and alt/extreme sports? (hello, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, B.A.S.E. jumping...) (and, ahem, e-sports.) The period saw entire sports industries on their way up or down in overall popularity through the period (hello, basketball and hockey; goodbye, baseball and football) as well as the micro case also: plenty of art celebrating local teams that no longer exist, as married to a particular moment in time as ANSI art itself was! 8)
Kirkman respectfully disagrees, by which he means that his local PD BBS community demonstrated a much healthier interest in sports than mine did:
I know every BBS scene was different, but I think there were plenty of sports fans calling BBSes, especially adults. Some BBSes ran “football pick-em” or “football pool” tournaments, for example. These were either run manually though the message bases, or managed by a door game. I participated in one on Flash BBS in St. Louis for a couple years.
Case in point, here's a piece by "ANSI-Mation!" for a fantasy baseball message base:
(Kirkman also has a note about the performance of his family's favorite teams: "FWIW, both teams have been very good this century. The Spurs have played in six NBA championships since 1999 (winning five), and the Cardinals have played in four MLB World Series (winning two)." But I digress.) The main attraction back in 1990 (and hm, actually, appearing somewhat stable today) was FOOTBALL, American-style. (I know, despite the Olympic hook I opened with, athletics and track & field events are basically totally unrepresented otherwise. Bait and switch! These are all pro league sports here today.) We'll start with some local appeal from the Seattle Seahawks. (Pixel Pompeii is based out of Vancouver, Canada; I could find no BC Lions ANSI art 8)
It is what it is! Or, in this case, what it was -- in 1996 the Houston Oilers (threw me for a loop, too! Dwelling apart from the land of sports, I forgot how teams name themselves after local industries... industries which are, of course, not exclusive to their area, Edmonton!) transitioned right out of their digs to become the Tennessee Titans! This one is credited to a mysterious JC about whom we hope to learn more later.
The date of creation of this one can be much more narrowly estimated, as the San Antonio Raiders only existed as a team from 1991 to 1992!
JC returns with a celebration of the Green Bay Packers. (Hm, and what's the story behind that name? Oh huh, more interesting than I might have thought!)
Here we have a little ANSI for a team with a most iconic name (courtesy of their legendary cheerleaders, none of whom included Debbie) the Dallas Cowboys. This one is also by JC, and I feel we have a big reveal coming up...
Tah-dah! Here is A JC, Joseph "Joey" Crum, who may or may not be responsible for all of these. (Maybe football ANSIs weren't actually all that popular, it was just one devoted weirdo slaving away at skewing the historical record?) Anyhow, he weighs in with another piece celebrating the Dallas Cowboys.
And who might the Cowboys pair off again? Why, nothing would be more metaphorically appropriate (if somewhat distasteful in our pre-postcolonial era) than a bout between the Cowboys and the Redskins!
And JC delivers us up more political incorrectness (well, it's not like he was the one who named the team!) with this piece for the Kansas City Chiefs. (And why is it, anyway, that if they aren't proud of the local industry a reference to subjugated local indigenous people is the Plan B for sport team names?)
And here, another ANSI by JC celebrating the San Francisco 49ers (whose inspiration I just had to research -- apparently named after fortune-seekers in the 1849 gold rush!)
Here's a piece promoting the New York Giants (whose membership, you may recall, included at one time defensive lineman Rosey Grier -- whose hobbies included the ANSI-alike needlepoint! My textmode art history is rigorous!)
The New York Giants are back, faced off against the Buffalo Bills (their logo is a buffalo, not a bill... missed opportunity!) - Mike Fuller used these TheDraw fonts to celebrate their conflict, and he wanted you to know it.
And a somewhat more impressive face-off, by Joey Crum, between the Giants and the Bills... which I guess also provides us with a time context for the previous piece -- Super Bowl XXV, 1991.
This piece isn't about any specific Super Bowl, but more the Super Bowl generally. Perhaps the aspiration was that it could see re-use annually. Sports: we acknowledge that they're too big for us to ignore, though we can't bother to mask our disinterest in them.
And a bonus, one completely modern specimen from classic teletext master Horsenburger:
And that's a wrap for Football, which the digital underground really couldn't give a fig about. Now on to America's passtime -- BASEBALL! We open this gallery with a logo celebrating the Atlanta Braves (really? Apparently the "Caucasians" jersey has been on the market for nine years now, but it's only just begun recently picking up steam... it's about time!) drawn by a name we've seen before in the PD ANSI sphere, George Ramos. (Whether Jr. or Sr. remains unclear!)
"Ben" shared with us this rendition of the Pittsburgh Pirates' logo, which disappointed me that it wasn't celebrating Sid Meier's nautical video game.
Kirkman has contemporarily generated a couple of logos for his local St. Louis Cardinals, and he wants to be up front about his tool-assisted technique: They are not "pure" scene ANSI. I cropped and converted the logos to GIFs with a particular palette, then used ansirez to convert them to ANSI. I did a bunch of cleanup on the logos, then drew my own text/lettering.
Me, I think they delivered great results (measured up against the Public Domain competition here), courtesy of the human touch regulating the output, and really any way of getting your ANSI on to your BBS in 2016 should be celebrated.
Edit: Oh dear-- to see what the underground did with the same subject matter, Sudden Death of CiA minted this rendition of the totally-racist Cleveland Indians mascot:

OK, so baseball was a bit of a dud. But here's a sport that was up-and-coming in the '90s: BASKETBALL! We open with a little ANSI celebration of the Detroit Pistons:
Next, another one by Kirkman, cheering on the San Antonio Spurs:
Ron Czarnik sets up an unfavorable comparison between Public Domain ANSI art and that of the underground (I can't help but suspect the bands of colour indicate an area where something was initially drawn with flashing colours -- perhaps a bouncing ball being dribbled?):
Straddling the worlds of all that was possible in textmode art in the early '90s, Jed of ACiD here closed the book on basketball-themed ANSI with this piece celebrating the vessel for Michael Jordan's contemporary b-ball greatness, the Chicago Bulls:
This is not to say that there were never again ANSIs drawn involving the sport of basketball -- this alien (?) basketball player is from the 6th Blender competition, which includes a good deal more spontaneous computer art on the subject of aliens and basketballs.
OK, I guess the basketball fans were spending more hours sitting courtside watching games than doodling tributes on their PCs. Next up we take a look at the world's most popular sport: SOCCER! Here's a goalie in net from a Black Maiden infofile:
And here, from a different infofile from the same Black Maiden pach -- a soccer pitch:
(To compare and contrast -- the same scene, rendered as two ZZT levels:)
(And now, from "Beck's Footy":)
From the other Maiden, the Brazilian one, Minotaur celebrates his Flamengo (FC) "football" club:
And also from Brazil, Enzo here is depicted in an iCE artpack memberlist as a footballer:
OK, so soccer didn't take us very far. Well, here we are in the last of the major international team sports: HOCKEY. We'll begin with a PD piece celebrating the Calgary Flames:
For contrast, here's Robin Vossenaar's tribute to the San Jose Sharks:
And a final nod from the Public Domain, an anonymous ode to the Stanley Cup prowess of the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Next up, Mindcrime of Blade cheers on the New Jersey Devils:
Maytag Man here uses ASCII art to boost the team which once were the Quebec Nordiques, moved in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche. It's over 20 years later and Quebec still doesn't have an NHL franchise, just beat out for one by Las Vegas. Go figure.
OK, hockey is such a relatively unpopular textmode art subject that sometimes it is actually drawn by accident!
Then there are other occasions where hockey players are drawn on purpose, but perhaps shouldn't have been.
And then, as if to put the lie to the notion that sports subjects are perhaps better off left undrawn-in-ANSI, we close with this recent masterwork by Blocktronics artist Whazzit (who more historically has found subjects from realms such as Dungeons & Dragons -- I can only speculate that in high school he could have been found beating himself up between classes), sketching in the small-scale -- like PD artists did, only awesomely. If we'd seen stuff like this 20 years ago, maybe all the ANSI artists would have been drawing hockey players instead of Spawn. You see, he can celebrate all the playoff teams... but he never forgets to root for his traditional home team:
Public Domain artists might have had more well-rounded athletic interests in such niche sports as bowling and boxing; I could find no artscene parallels:
And that's it, the final buzzer sounds, no overtime! Check back again soon to see what other interesting tidbits I'm able to pull out of the forgotten storage of ancient computers and their modern counterparts. Good game! Bonus: we opened with the 1988 Olympiad, let's end with the 1980 one, by Dman of Blocktronics!, via a quick stop through 1996:
(And can I resist throwing in this piece Nitnatsnoc drew for a "lost" Blender, likely the only reference to the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in the entire artscene? No, no I cannot.)