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Thread: ASCII Photography

  1. #1
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    Question ASCII Photography

    I was intrigued by a video I saw on Youtube from 1977: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO2MZV9AC_c
    20 seconds into the video they demo a computer taking a portrait of a person and printing out a very good likeness on an ASCII line printer. I wish there was more explanation into how this was done, is anybody familiar with the tech that could have been used? It would be a fun project to re-create, I post here in the S-100 section because there was an IMSAI later on in the video, perhaps the machine used to take the picture?!?

  2. #2
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    Around 1977, there were certainly cameras using de-capped DRAM as the image sensor for the hobbyist--probably not better than 16Kb devices. The rest is just rendering into proper characters. Line printer art is pretty cool; many early examples used FORTRAN carriage control for overstrike ("+" in column 1).

    But perhaps the most iconic ASCII art (though not line-printer, but using plotter characters) is the 1964 "Mona By the Numbers". I believe that CHM has a copy of it. Scanned using a flying spot scanner.

  3. #3

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    I own the system (well the computer at least) that took those type of pictures and printed them off on a monospaced Wide carriage centronics printer.

    It was called the Casi Apollo VP2, it does have a small modified s100 planary and a rather small amount of Sram on a Digital Music board, the digitizer is fairly simple and it prints photos by scanning off the vram right into the printer port, you can mirror the image but not much else.

    My system still works but has some noise, used old 50 ohm black and white TV camera stuff.

    These systems were sold to folks as a business for many years starting in 1976.

    Prior to the Casi system was the Compmark 1 Spacepux system in 1972,
    They are still in business in Minnesota if you want to call the owner.

    Good Luck

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    Around 1977, there were certainly cameras using de-capped DRAM as the image sensor for the hobbyist--probably not better than 16Kb devices. The rest is just rendering into proper characters. Line printer art is pretty cool; many early examples used FORTRAN carriage control for overstrike ("+" in column 1).

    But perhaps the most iconic ASCII art (though not line-printer, but using plotter characters) is the 1964 "Mona By the Numbers". I believe that CHM has a copy of it. Scanned using a flying spot scanner.
    Back in 1975 while in a Navy training class, I remember the 'Marilyn Monroe' and 'Snoopy' renderings from the Varian 620i which were fed to the ITT line printer. Up close it looked like so much gibberish, but back off about 8 or 10 feet and it was a work of art. (no, I don't know who art was)
    Surely not everyone was Kung-fu fighting

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    It was even more interesting when the "art" was punched into a deck of cards. Some of it could be 80-80 listed on a 407.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmay635703 View Post
    I own the system (well the computer at least) that took those type of pictures and printed them off on a monospaced Wide carriage centronics printer.

    It was called the Casi Apollo VP2, it does have a small modified s100 planary and a rather small amount of Sram on a Digital Music board, the digitizer is fairly simple and it prints photos by scanning off the vram right into the printer port, you can mirror the image but not much else.

    My system still works but has some noise, used old 50 ohm black and white TV camera stuff.

    These systems were sold to folks as a business for many years starting in 1976.

    Prior to the Casi system was the Compmark 1 Spacepux system in 1972,
    They are still in business in Minnesota if you want to call the owner.

    Good Luck
    WOW, a reply from an actual owner of such a system, this is wonderful! And to think that the tech came from my home state of Minnesota as well, what a treat to read your post. Gears are turning now in my head, perhaps John Monahan's new Arduino based S100 board with a camera shield can be used to produce similar results. Thank You!

  7. #7
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    Bill Sudbrink has exhibited his Cyclops camera and IMSAI several times at VCF East. The image sensor is a decapped 1K MOS memory chip:

    http://q7.neurotica.com/Oldtech/VCF-...8/IMG_6698.jpg

    https://hackaday.com/2016/04/17/buil...igital-camera/

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    The decapped DRAM chip camera was rediscovered by several people. One such was Steve Ciarcia using a 64Kb DRAM, around 1983--he called it, IIRC, the "Micro D Cam". Others used the 16Kb DRAM and I suppose a 4K DRAM could also be used. 1K may work, but it's pretty coarse. The interesting thing about later versions is that a limited gray-scale could be done. The key for this is a cerDIP that can be decapped easily. After that, it's mostly software and counters.

    My observation of using a 4116 would be period-correct for S100 enthusiasts--and cerDIPS for those are still easy to find.

    I've got a pile of the 22pin DIP 4K cerDIP 2107-style DRAMs that's probably destined for the scrap pile if anyone wants to experiment. The advantage is that the address lines aren't multiplexed. The disadvantage is that they take a 3-rail supply--like the 4116.
    Last edited by Chuck(G); October 3rd, 2018 at 07:46 PM.

  9. #9

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    While it wasn't ASCII, I'm having flashbacks to Computereyes, which was a camera system back in the early/mid-80s. I remember the school my mom worked at having one of these, and getting a picture of me and my dad printed off on an old Imagewriter. It was incredible for the time and still pretty awesome, looking back at that era.

    http://www.digital-vision-inc.com/products.htm

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