NZ man creates Star Wars in ASCII

A New Zealand software engineer has found himself on a Brazilian Playboy Web page, but he's kept his clothes on. Simon Jansen has been building and animating a scene-by-scene recreation of the first Star Wars film using ASCII symbols.

A new Zealand software engineer has found himself on a Brazilian Playboy Web page, but he's kept his clothes on.

Simon Jansen has been building and animating a scene-by-scene recreation of the first Star Wars film using simple ASCII symbols. And his "asciimation", as he calls it, is making him famous (well, a little bit famous) around the world - including Brazil.

The Playboy site lists Jensen's Web site (www.asciimation.co.nz) as a "guaranteed diversion".

Inspired by a joke email, Jansen started working on the animation in July 1997 and has worked on it slowly. Very slowly. "I usually don't have a lot of time (or inclination) to sit down and do it," he says, though he can add a scene quite quickly when he's in the mood. To date, he's reached the point where the crew of the Millennium Falcon first reach the Death Star - and included a side project called "The Death of Jar Jar".

Jansen had to take his initial Web site down as he felt it wasn't complete, and he was also getting more email than he could cope with. There was such an outcry when it disappeared, however, that host service XCN64 (www.x64.net) offered to host it for him.

Reactions have generally been good, he says. "I think most people like it because it's novel and so simple, and because they appreciate the effort that's gone into it."

The guest book has some interesting comments in it, including some "anonymous, unjustified and quite often unintelligible" attacks.

"I hear 'You have too much time on your hands' quite often, and 'You suck' seems to be a popular one. They usually mention it twice within one message . just to make sure I understand their point I suppose," says Jansen.

But there are also lots of fans and mentions of the article in print and online around the world.

Jansen plans to work on it slowly, but he can't promise he'll finish or move on to any other films. "People have suggested other films. Fritz Lange's Metropolis might be a good one ."

Jansen is not constantly in front of his computer, he says.

He reads a lot, writes letters - "something not a lot of people seem to do these days" - and builds models, toys and puppets. "You can do a lot with felt and a hot glue gun!"

On the computer side, Jansen says he's started looking at programming for the Palm Pilot. "It's not as complex as most software these days, and is a bit like programming was back in the days of the first home computers."

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