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Issue #823: Apr 30 – May 6, 2023

Happy Star Wars Day, Geeks!  I’m sure you all are familiar with the basis for this sentiment – specifically, “May the fourth be with you!” – that malapropism send-up of the famous line from George Lucas’s Star Wars movie.  Now, I don’t harbor any false allusions that you are actually reading this on the fourth of May, but that date falls within the publication range of this week’s issue, so it’s the best I can do, and sometimes we have to settle for that.

So, in honor of Star Wars Day, I have a fun little gift for you.  Wrapped up in this gift is a learning opportunity, especially for those of you whose experience with technology began after the advent of high-resolution video displays.

Back in the day (WAY back – remember I’m an OLD geek) computers, and even many printers could only display text – no graphics.  The set of potential characters they could use was, and indeed still is, defined by the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, or ASCII.  Geeks being who they are, they sought out ways to express themselves on the computer beyond mere words, and ASCII art was born.  The simplest examples of this include <3 (heart) and : -) (the original smiley – precursor to today’s rich suite of emojis).  If you don’t see the heart and smiley, try tilting your head to the side.  I’ve seen far more elaborate examples, from Snoopy to the Mona Lisa that can take up entire screens, or sheets of paper when printed out.  That’s what brings me to the little gift I have to share with you. 

So, what do Star Wars Day and ASCII art have to do with each other?  I’m so glad you asked!  In honor of Star Wars Day, I’m going to show you how to watch Star Wars: A New Hope – which despite being the first movie made is somehow episode IV, but we won’t talk about that right now – in ASCII art, in a window on your computer.  Seriously.

First, you need to do a little setup in Windows.  To begin, press the [WinKey]+R to open the Run dialog. In the “Open” field, type optionalfeatures (no, there is no space between the words) then press [Enter].  The “Windows Features” dialog will open. Find the check box labeled “Telnet Client” and check it, then click OK.  Let Windows complete its work.

Okay, you’re at the box office, and you’ve bought your ticket!  Grab your popcorn and a large sugar-free drink, and perform the following steps:

Once again press [WinKey]+R to open the Run dialog.  In the “Open” field this time enter the following: “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl”.  Make sure you type it exactly as shown, except without the quotation marks.  This will open the Telnet client that you enabled above, and automatically direct it to the website shown.  The rest is automatic.  It’s possible the site might time-out.  If that happens, the Telnet window will probably close.  Just try again until it works.

Like any good movie theater experience, there is no ability to pause, rewind, or fast-forward the video, so just sit back and enjoy. Unfortunately, the remake only gets to the part where Luke rescues Leia, then stops with the message: “To be continued.”

If, for some reason you just can’t connect to the Telnet server, or if you’d rather watch the animation in your web browser, you can do so by visiting TinyURL.com/IGTM-0823.  The version on this site even offers playback controls that allow you to run it at various speeds or pause it while you go refill your popcorn.  May the force, er, fourth, be with you!


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