Text of the Apocalypse as Graphics
March 9, 2010 9:08 AM   Subscribe

posted by craven_morhead at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2010

That's pretty coo. It seems sort of like an early version of what we're now seeing with generative art communities around software like Processing and Context-Free Art.
posted by circular at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2010

I like the posters. But for a typographer-cum-graphic artist, his written work is pretty painful on the eyes.
posted by brain_drain at 9:35 AM on March 9, 2010

I'd debate whether this was incredible visual results 11 years ago when it was made. It really isn't incredible visual output today. Sorry but I don't find anything here that engages me. Jagged repetitive pixel wash can be made by any kid with MS Paint.
posted by Babblesort at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2010

To my eyes, reading about such horrible events via a font of neutral style, one which would be appropriate for any purpose at all, is disturbing.

This is fascinating to me, because I have a great deal of difficulty relating to it. To me, the medium is somewhat decoupled from the message. The words I'm typing right now started as a set of neural firings, translated into finger motions, which my keyboard turns into key codes which get turned into ... etc... until you view what I just wrote and translate this text into neural firings.

Some intermediate forms of the message would be "inappropriate" (it would require special tools to reconstruct this message directly from its magnetic representation on the servers' disks) but this comment as a message is not essentially visual- once it is served as a web page, it could be read with a screen reader without losing any of the information or ideas that I intended to convey in the original representation (my neural firings).
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2010

This reminds me of stuff that I made using Logo on an IBM PCjr in Middle School. It was a lot more fun to have it create Spirograph-like art by making the turtle draw over and over and over.
posted by c0nsumer at 10:09 AM on March 9, 2010

Looks like someone seriously screwed up their kerning.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2010

I dunno, I think they're charming. I remember when I was a teenager this would have looked incredibly futuristic to me, and it's gone straight from "futuristic" to "dated" without stopping anywhere in between.

(FWIW, too, the jpgs that are posted are really lousy — lots of detail lost. The original pdfs are more visually interesting, at least, although stylistically they're still pretty mid-90s-Wired-magazine.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2010

I looks like these were done with TeX, which is fairly impressive in itself. For those outside the sciences, TeX is a collection of typesetting programs which excel at typesetting mathematics. Unlike, say, a word processor, you input code, and then compile the code into your document.

Here's a brief snippet of some notes I wrote once, to get an idea of what the code looks like. This in in LaTeX, an extension for TeX that makes easy things much easier:

\section*{ Classifying Finite Dimensional Irreps of $U'_q(\hat{sl_2})$}

Let $V(j)$, $V(k)$ be two $U_q(sl_2)$ irreps, generated by heighest
weight vectors $u$ and $v$ with heighest weights $j$ and $k$
respectively. Then the the coproduct on $U_q(sl_2)$ determines the
structure of the tensor product $U\otimes V$. Recall that the coproduct
of $f$ is $\Delta(f) = f\otimes 1 + K\otimes f.$ Define $p_{x,y}(q)$
such that $f^n(u\otimes v) = \sum_{x+y=n} p_{x,y}(q)f^x(u)\otimes
f^y(v)$. So $p_{x,y}(q)$ are in some sense 'structure constants' for
the action of $U_q(sl_2)$ on $U\otimes V$.

So he probably designed some fonts for use with TeX, using code similar to this, and then bent over backwards getting it to arrange and compile properly. This is a nice technical achievement, even if the results aren't mind-blowing to us looking back.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2010

kaibutsu — it looks like he was setting ordinary text in TeX, but with VERY WEIRD fonts which he got by abusing the hell out of MetaFont. Still a neat technical trick.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:17 PM on March 9, 2010

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