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Nude pictures on early retro PCs – was it possible? (dmitryelj.medium.com)
158 points by DmitryElj 21 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 162 comments

It's funny that you treat this as a theoretical tech question rather than, say, just asking one of us ancients who was there, Gandalf, 3000 years ago.

Yes, it was. The Commodore 128, for example, was even capable of displaying extremely short (probably 30 frames or so) hardcore porn loops in what was likely MCGA or the equivalent. I can say this without consulting manuals or spec sheets or anything but being a horny wee geek and seeing my first penetration on my neighbor and fellow adolescent nerd's little TV screen, after waiting a half hour for it to load from a floppy drive (pun intended). We felt like sophisticates at the Playboy Mansion.

Also I think I had one monochrome low res boob pic on my Apple IIe, which I hid from my parents like a serial killer hides his special trophy room, at least until I found the box of VHS tapes with the labels torn off under my grandpa's bed. After that, green boobs at like 120x60 resolution or whatever it is wasn't very exciting anymore.

So, yes. Yes, it definitely was. :-D

Yeah, this article really made me feel old. And I'm only 37.

My first contact with digitized smut happened around 1995 I think, when my friend showed me some porn game with short live-action clips on his Amiga (which is sadly not even mentioned in the article, even though its multimedia – and thus porn – capabilities were from another planet compared to PCs in the early 90s.)

Incidentally, I just recently wrote a PCX decoder for a retrographics project of mine (https://github.com/jdahlstrom/retrofire if anyone's interested).

Confirmed, even pre PC micro's as you say could achieve this feat.

I personally did a demo that I slipped onto the local computer stores machine that sat in high memory (reset resistant unless held down for few seconds more than a press) TSR kinda thing upon an Atari ST that had a selection of the finest artwork that would cycle thru the selection after a delay of a few minutes displaying a screen capture of a normal desktop. Few weeks later version two had an animated flying phallus sprite across the screen.

But for a generation that found amusement in 55378008 upon a calculator, then it was inevitable.

Pretty much every computer magazine from the mid-late 80s onward had lewd software ads in the back.

Alas, I was too young to cleverly find a way to purchase these without my parents finding out, and was never able to locate a BBS that hosted this type of content.

My uncle had Leisure Suit Larry on his computer and I remember playing it simply for the fun of the game.


I remember getting kicked out of Leisure Suit Larry because it asked "age verification" questions in a time before I could just use Google.


As long as you were able to get Larry a "date". It gets a little dark if you don't...

I remember Quest for Glory 2 from Sierra Games had a sequence where you could purchase X-Ray glasses and you could wear them to see Zayishah, one of the central characters, naked in the game (rather pixelated it must be said).

IIRC Larry didn't get much more than a mildly risque hot tub shot and some heavily censored humping. Didn't it have a black bar that bounced up and down or something like that? It was a comedy game first and porn game a distant second.

Yeah it was pretty bland in that way.

The scene at the end was a little bit better but not much.

"Ken sent me"

I had not thought about these ads in forever, but when I saw the ad in the article I had a somewhat Pavlovian response.

Back in '82 I wrote a little Vic-20 assembler that would write over the memory used by the font, so I could create tiles for video games. The first test I made was simply a picture of John Belushi from an "Animal House" still. I showed that at the local Commodore store, and they asked to use it for their display computers and asked me to present at their computer club. After the presentation, a few days later, I started to see all manner of nudes being created with my little program by quite a few people.

I can't find the source right now, but I recall reading somewhere that aside from being a clever marketing gimmick, Nintendo's official seal wasn't just a response to all the "rubbish" games on Atari (which is what then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi explicitly stated), but also the high number of them that were sex-themed.

Basically the Atari 2600 didn't have any mechanism to prevent third parties from creating games for the system, and this led to a lot of games that were pornographic in nature.

Nintendo placed a lot of value in their family-friendly image and locked the Famicom/NES down so that to get your cartridges manufactured you had to go through Nintendo's approval process. Nintendo of America was quite notorious for what they didn't allow, going to some Comics Code Authority-levels of censorship.

Here's Angry Video Game Nerd's video about several of the controversial games on the Atari 2600: https://youtu.be/uLOVemRanhw

And them strip poker games on the C64 and the likes: at least we had to learn and beat the computer at five-cards draw (Texas Hold'Em was that famous yet back then) to see naked women!

All I did was swap Melissa5.pic with Melissa1.pic so that she would start off naked.

Hence I'm still shit at poker...

C64 Artworx Strip Poker and the pirated data disks that were always corrupted.

I think I'm actually pretty good at (video) poker now because of years of playing through these in their different incarnations.

Not full up retro, but I remember one dial up BBS service in my local dialing zone had a 6 disc CD changer and the sixth disk was loaded full of porn. Downloading at 14.4kbps meant getting about 100kb per minute, but since even the high quality stuff was only 640x480 that wasn't so bad.

The big difference on the 8-bit micros is no Internet, so you would have to find someone physically selling the disc, which was very hard to find. Plus digital scanners were extremely expensive professional gear and digital cameras basically didn't exist. Production was seriously bottlenecked. Still, like life, porn finds a way.

This made me distinctly remember a topless Cindy Crawford, but by then I was already on my Amiga 500. That gave the pictures full 4096 color HAM glory though at a time early PC's still largely rocked 16 color displays during roughly the 286 era.

"I was there when the strength of Men failed"

During the early 2000s, the dot-com bubble coincided with a telco bubble, with everybody working themselves into a lather over the promise of WAP, basically dial-up modems for mobile phones: slow, underpowered, charged per minute and thus hugely expensive. Working at a telco operator, I had access to the logs of the WAP gateways serving up the stuff, and far and away the top use was porn, with waperotica.com being particularly dominant.

The catch: this was way before smartphones. The Nokia 3310, a typical device at the time, had a 84x84 black and white (really more black and olive) display, considerably worse than the CP/M 256×192 panned in the article -- and still people watched porn on it.

> with everybody working themselves into a lather over the promise of WAP

If this was an intentional pun over the recently-acquired other meaning of "WAP", my compliments, it was perfectly executed.

Intentional or not, WAP (Wiresless Application Protocol) was a real protocol that allowed you to surf the web on a cellphone in the late 90s/early 20s, before 3G was a thing. Most websites (or wapsites) were super barebones and relatively fast for me, and you could find interesting stuff like cracked .jars of popular games or of course, porn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Application_Protocol

To be fair, with the current web bloat, wap sites were faster to open than many todays sites, even on 5G.

I remember using and WAP2IRC gateway to impress my IRC buddies.

They had to be barebones. WAP only supported text and tiny black and white (no greyscale) images. I did some WAP sites and it was pretty horrible to work with even back then. The phone I used (Nokia 7110) didn't even support GPRS so you had to make a call at 9600 baud and pay per minute so you didn't want to hang around either.

The Japanese had i.mode which was much more powerful. They tried to introduce it in Europe but by then the smartphone was already coming.

If you're referring to sexual reference`, those preceed the wireless protocol by some centuries.


Why are people using euphemisms here? The sexual reference: WAP stands for "wet ass pussy", popularized by Cardi B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsm4poTWjMs. The music video has over 400M views.

Maybe in some countries. I only knew about the phone use for WAP.

I'd managed to forget that usage, though I've commented on it previously (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24396681#24406061).

Apparently I've now lost that game.

The term (as a word, not an acronym) is also used to refer to self-indulgence, generally among males. That and earlier references suggesting various modes of beat being laid down are what I was referencing with my etymology link above.

According to GP's link, it looks like the word has been slang for fucking for some time (probably as a verb?)

Wonder if that word is where 'fap' comes from (meaning 'to masturbate')

"Fap" began as onomatopoeia popularized by the Sexy Losers webcomic, first appearing in https://www.sexylosers.com/comic/003/ (NSFW in case that wasn't obvious).

Holy crap, I grew up reading that comic and never realized it had such a wide audience

If there is one thing that really educated me about kink, it's that comic


Never heard of it before.

XKCD #37 seems relevant... though I'm not willing to put money on where the hyphen is intended in that acronym.


There is a more recent one, popularized in 2020 as an acronym.

I'd managed to put that out of my mind. See earlier reply in thread.

It's fascinating that low-res images exploded in popularity, when really the technology would've been better-suited to amateur literotica.

There are sex-themed text adventures (e.g. Drive-In in which you're at a Drive-in movie theatre with a date: https://ifdb.org/viewgame?id=gksf13iptntcx5m6 ) but most of the people writing "amateur literotica" are middle-aged women and the pre-VGA era PC has far fewer of those proportionally.

In terms of more conventional erotic literature (not branching narrative) that takes off more with widespread access to the Internet because it connects writers and audience. Today authors can gently shade over, from giving away fan-fiction on AO3 to producing cheap Amazon e-Books that make you enough to buy a coffee once in a while, to getting paid professionally to churn out stories for an outfit like Harlequin that can afford actual editors (even if you read two Romances a day like my mother, the fact Jim got taller and grew a beard in the course of a single chapter jumps out, not to mention the fact his older brother's name changed, and so she can tell if she's reading a story that a professional gave the once over before it was published). The Internet also caused readers to explore more, instead of buying a box of a dozen Edwardian-era Romantic fiction novels at a time, knowing that's more of something you like, when it's one click away why not find out whether you're into werewolves, or gay relationships, or the Wild West, or whatever? If you hate it you can click away and be reading yet more stories from the early 20th century British Empire in seconds.

Pictures beat words (so to speak).


As the saying goes, "I would trade every painting of Jesus for one photograph of him".

I picture is worth a thoughsand words.

Nokia 3310 had 84x48 screen and couldn't connect to WAP; but Nokia 3410 already could (via CSD), and that one had a much better screen - 96x65.

You could however send and receive graphical SMS on Nokia 3310 - a whooping 72x28 monochrome image sent over three SMSes :)

I remember some kids in HS were distributing floppies of women with bathing suits and some "optimized" viewing program.

On the computer lab computers, 8086's, it would take several seconds if not minutes to render on the screen, one line at a time. That gave everyone plenty of time to escape out in case a teacher or someone else walked by. And there was only sky and trees and stuff mostly on the screen at that point.

Later on, a year or so later, the typing teacher got a 6 new computers, 386s. The first kid to try them out to look at the bathing suit pictures found that the images rendered instantly and completely. He was so stunned by seeing the entire image way sooner than he expected, but also, I guess, seeing the entire image itself. He let out a "Oh shit!" which caused the teacher to turn around and see the contraband on the screen.

Student had his disk confiscated and was banned from using the school's computers for the rest of the year.

Times were simpler then.

Haha! I remember when I first got access to X-Windows terminals and how easy it was to start an image viewer on someone else's display because xauth was not yet a thing.

This was a lot of fun :)

There was also xblaster or xblast or something that would turn the victim's mouse pointer into a crosshair and when clicked would shoot holes into their windows which would not disappear. You could actually see the windows underneath them.

They implemented xauth pretty quickly though and that was the end of that. Thanks "MIT Magic Cookie". Never found out why it was called that.

I'm reminded of the classic Comic Book Guy scene from the Simpsons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSKBRWoGvL0

Grayscale animated gifs where the first introduction to porn. That was i386sx time. Like silent movies they had queue cards with some bollocks like "Shaved pussies are more slippery". 320x250 and 256 colors or 640x400/480 with 16 colors. Bearded blokes and hairy bushes looked really good at 640x400.

Add the corrupted JPEG here and there ... "right above the important area" of course. and you know, porn was also there.

I remember my mom showing me an ASCII print from a drum-roll printer (Mainframe) of a nude lady. So everything was possible ... (o)(o)

Cue cards. :-)

They told the actor what to say: they were a silent cue, a prompt or reminder.

As a connoisseur of obscure Internet content, I can fix you up with some prime C64 smut right here and now. Behold a marvel of NSFW rasterization: http://www.heechee.net/c64/girls/

How did you find this website?

I've built and operate search.marginalia.nu, it's designed to dig up esoteric crap like this.

Part of the work is also identifying and blacklisting spam results, which means I have to do a lot of searches for casinos, hotels, drugs, porn, locksmiths, cryptocurrencies, escorts etc. This site cropped up during such an inventory.

Is this a job, side gig, or hobby? What kind of help do you want or need? Obscure, esoteric shit is the best.

I would upvote your Show HN about whatever made this site worth creating.

FTA: “If somebody was using the image scanning, viewing or editing software in the 80s or if somebody maybe has examples of such images, please write in comments”

The Thunderscan scanner, which allowed for (slow) five-bit grayscale scanning from a Mac or Apple II (https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&stor...) is from 1984.

MacPlaymate (https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/found-hidden-and-charm...) is from 1986.

ComputerEyes, a video capture product, came out for the Apple II around that time also: http://digital-vision-inc.com/products.htm

> Altair 8800 [...] and there was obviously no chance to see any photo on this device.

I'm not sure why? A basic Altair certainly seemed primitive from all appearances, but it supported S-100 expansion cards. This includes video such as the Cromemco Dazzler[1], which supported:

> while the highest resolution used a 2 kB buffer in X4 mode to produce a 128 by 128 pixel image.

And the later Super Dazzler:

> The Super Dazzler Interface (SDI) had 756 x 484 pixel resolution with the ability to display up to 4096 colors, a capability that had previously only been available in much more expensive systems.

You can see the Super Dazzler in action on YouTube[2]. And while it was generally equipped on much more capable machines, it theoretically could be used on the 8800 to display a static image.

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cromemco_Dazzler

2 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3EmCf1fw4s

There were multiple S-100 boards that could do graphics. I remember a BYTE article about one that could join multiple boards to have multiple bits per pixel.

Oh sure, there are a few[1]. I just chose one that was commonly used at the time. What you’re referring to is probably the MicroAngelo[2], which could display monochrome 512x480; however, it could be multiplexed with up to 8 cards to act as a bitplane renderer @ 256 colors.

1 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:S-100_graphics_card...

2 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroAngelo

Right, if you have I/O and a frame-buffer the speed of the main system will only affect load times, not what still-frames you can show.

Exactly. If they were talking about video, you’re gonna have to wait another generation are two for commodity hardware. But just showing an image? The Altair was certainly capable.

Retro PC? How about ASCII printouts (not on-screen as the 80 column 25 rows black-n-white (actually dark green and light green) screens weren't enough even with our high school freshman imagination) off USSR clone of IBM/360 in the 198x - couple meters long at something like 200 characters per row, and had to be viewed from a distance of like 3 meters to see the picture instead of just rows of ASCII ... Running and collecting the printout from the University datacenter so that the typical operator there - a young woman - wouldn't catch you was a Mission Impossible endeavor on itself.

For the original question - i think we humans had always been making it possible using whatever tech is available at the time, for example i think that is "nude pictures" too https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurine

For those who pined for the old days … of real ASCII nude.



This one...


...is the all time classic. Every time I logged onto a new mainframe/DEC-VAX system, it'd be sitting in a folder somewhere.

I even had a personal copy printed out on several sheets of paper[1] that has now alas, been lost to time.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous_stationery

Are you sure that’s ASCII? I would think these started life as EBCDIC (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBCDIC) or Multinational Character Set (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multinational_Character_Set)

Yeah. I remember displaying these on ASCII terminals in 1200 bps connected to a DEC Vax 4000 or a Sun 3.

Digital porn was around even before graphics were common.

Same thing with movies, there's an ASCII art animated star wars somewhere, too.

In 1988-89, I was a young teenager, I remembered I got a floppy with an erotic picture on my Amiga 500 using the HAM mode which allowed 4096 colours simultaneously. The image was quite realistic, which contrasted with the usual 32 colors graphics. Back then, it wasn't usual to see something looking like an actual picture on a computer screen.

So I remembered showing this picture to some friend, to brague about my computer capabilities, when my conservative grandma entered the room and saw the pictures. She was shocked and started lecturing us on love and sex.

> ...I got a floppy with an erotic picture...

I think something's wrong here :)

I had those HAM images and also ran this on the Amiga Mac emulator (it was included in the pirate copy of the OS): https://nostalgiacentral.com/pop-culture/toys-games/macplaym...

I remember trading erotic GIF images was popular on the computers in high school (around '92). I got a floppy of some to watch at home on my Amiga 500, and got hold of a program that could view 256-colour GIFs in HAM mode. It took about a minute to render each image.

Does this count? Because this raised some eyebrows at the local Apple store when I was a wee teen:


Plays right in the browser!

One thing the Mac had above all else available in 1986 was solid digitized sound, and this was no exception, so make sure to turn on sound and, uh, be somewhere private I guess...

Needless to say, NSFW!

I remember back in maybe 82 my grandfather bringing home from work, which was a construction company mind you, some tractor-feed printouts of various art from cartoon to nudies. Some were rudimentary line art, multi page pinups, some were more like the libaa sort of semi-photographic. He brought a stack of them home once as kind of a "look at what those crazy guys in the office did on the computer".

A few years later, maybe '85, I remember coming across a zine on Usenet that had an ascii-art nudie that I had to stare at and convince myself contained spicy content, but honestly could have been anything. I think it came from an underexposed photo, and low contrast, dark source makes a nasty, and not in the good way, ascii-art.

Ah, the days of trawling through ARCHIE listings to find an interesting-sounding file name, sending an email request to somewhere at umich.edu using a bang address, and receiving a dozen replies each containing sequentially-named uue files.

Manually strip the mail headers and paste the uue files together, run them through uudecode, and get a nifty file in Spectrum512 or Targa format that you can ogle on the screen of your Atari ST.

I think of those days every time I use `git am`. I doubt it's a coincidence.

Pre-internet breakthrough, circa 1991 I bought a friends 2400 baud modem. I lived in Hong Kong, local telephone calls were free so BBSes were pretty widespread.

I vividly remember downloading my first nude picture (I hesitate to call it porn, it was pretty tasteful compared to what you can find these days). It was pre-JPEG so think it was an uncompressed bitmap, I waited at least an hour for it to download 1 line at a time. It was tortuous, but ultimately satisfying.

As a 13 year old boy this helped cement my love of computers.

As a pragmatist, it gave me the courage to buy a magazine so not to have to wait 1 hr / picture.

I had 5 1/2" floppies with nudes in .GIF files in the 80's. Maybe 1988.

Our compiter room at school was populated with BBC model B machines and a couple of BBC Master systems.

Aside from playing Firetrak, we had the pleasure of one kid bringing in three disks of his dad's with grainy as hell images that titivated the schoolboys.

Me being the class geek, I used the dual floppy Master system to "copy that floppy" as our American friends were urged not to do, and promptly secreted the copies in my bag.

I no longer have them, sadly.

Ah, this brings back memories of a friend getting hold of some pixelated gifs and bringing them in on a 3.5" floppy, the anticipation as we copied them over in the lab, then the mixed excitement and disappointment on trying to load them up at home and finding out half of the files were corrupted, followed by in-hindsight-amusing panic on the discovery of the Recent Documents list. :D

5.25 inch.

Damn you 47 year old brain! Too soon for dementia, behave or I shall poke you with a Q-tip!

I remember picking up a pack of 5.25" disks at a yard sale for a buck, trying them out on the 8086 pc I had just rescued from the trash. One of them contained this: https://www.ush.it/team/ascii/hack-porno1989/porno1989/porno...

(works only on a CGA or monochrome card, use PCem or 86Box)

That time, when my parents entered the room and I quickly flipped the power switch, I also discovered the phosphor persistence of green screen monitors. And they did as well.

When I was a young teen my friend moved into a home that was owned by a retired sys admin. The guy had token ring ran through his house (it was 1994) and left an old AT&T PC6300 in the boiler room.

We plugged it in, booted it up, and poked around the hard disk. We found a directory with some files in it, one of which was named finger.com or exe. Upon running it a rather well drawn nude woman (line art) was rendered to screen in a revealing position. Then, a series of "frames" were rendered showing the woman fingering herself.

It was beyond crude and incredibly slow to draw each frame, something like 5 seconds each. the previous frames were not erased so there were numerous arms over lapping the original frame. I dont think we even watched the whole thing as it was taking minutes to render and we were worried his parents would see. At that point gif porn was already a thing and we were trading in school on 3.5's.

(I was later given the 6300 which I took apart as I didn't think it was worth anything back then...)

Before this, there was line printer art; see "The IBM 1401 mainframe runs 'Edith'": https://youtube.com/watch?v=LtlrITxB5qg

The Acorn Archimedes [1] in 1987 was a 32bit 8Mhz machine. It had "just about" enough power to decode a jpeg "in software" when the format came out ('93 according to the article). I can remember the few jpegs that were around took a few seconds to render "line by line".

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acorn_Archimedes

The JPEG standard came out in September 1992, JView (which became For Your Eyes Only 2) came out in February 1993, and was I think the first jpeg viewer for RISC OS.

The first version of the GIF<->JPEG converter came out in the spring/summer of 1991 (although Wikipedia says in October 1991: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libjpeg). I know this because I built the first version which then got passed to Tom Lane when I changed jobs in July 1991.

In Europe, disk swapping via snail mail was very popular in late 1980s and early 1990s, back when available bbs/dialup connections were effectively slower than mailing a few floppies. I still remember that for every floppy packed with some coding attempts or demoscene stuff there would be at least 2 packed with low-res erotica. Good times!

It feels they are trying to extrapolate history, and I feel they are using modern tools to create those sample photos, rather than just, y'know, check history :). Strip Poker was played on CGA displays, and it was released in very early 80's. As a normal curious pre-teen at the time, I can personally vouch that Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum ZX 48k had equivalent software available 0:-).

In 1993-1994, BBSes started carrying GRASP and FLICK animation files. Bsically CGA, often 16-color grayscale (laptops and luggables were still mostly monochrome/grayscale) and loops a few seconds long. GIFs were around but always stills, rarely animated because JPEG was just beginning to proliferate.

I'm always surprised I don't see more pervs reminiscing about these, but maybe I'm just an edge case (pun intended).


Some SFW(!) GRASP and FLICK examples on this Web1.0 page, but the GRASPRT.EXE in the juggler.zip is 16-bit and is looking like a journey to get running itself.


I made a game for the Altair 8800! It fit in 128 bytes of RAM and had a one-key control. I called it 'Fly'. An X moved up from the bottom of the screen, you hit the space bar and it's direction changed 45 degrees to the left. You tried to keep it from going off the screen.

That was it. What do you expect in 128 bytes of RAM?

I had ASCII nudes that you had to print out to see. This was all on dot matrix printers with "continuous" paper feed.

So you could print out "long" pictures.

Nowhere near enough lines at the terminal.

The character set was also extremely limited.

You had to view it from a bit of a distance.

Of course it was possible.

For all of y'all mentioning Leisure Suit Larry, that wasn't really porn (more of a raunchy sex comedy) as there wasn't even uncensored nudity, and it was mostly a cartoon. The close-up images of women were more akin to Patrick Nagel paintings (albeit in nasty EGA colors).

But some kid left video porn on one of the classroom computers when I was in high school. It was grainy and choppy, but yeah, you could see she had it way deep in her mouth. Stuff like this was advertised all the time in the way, way back of PC Magazine. The editorship was even discussing banning it in the early 90s.

Joining my voice to those pointing out that the article missed all the display technology already available during the 1970's.

I would bet someone at Xerox and similar research institues playing with osciloscopes also had a go at it.

One thing that younger readers may miss about early retro PCs is just how big and bulky and heavy "Personal" Computers were. In particular even through the late 90s monitors were very boxy (using CRTs, like TVs before them). So access to a computer was typically in a common space, like a computer lab on a university campus, or, later, in a family living room or classroom.

This in contrast with later PC users, who might have grown up with one in a bedroom, or early feature phone users, who would have been able to look at their phones under the covers in bed.

I remember my scientist uncle showing me round the UK's National Physical Laboratory in the summer of 1979, aged 13. At one point, to amuse me, he printed out a dot-matrix picture of a scantily clad woman, which seemed to be a familiar image to the (all-male) scientists in the room. It may have been Lenna [1, referenced in TFA], I don't know. But it was undoubtedly the first digital smut I ever saw.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenna

Pre-internet, before I had access to a modem at all, we had a disc or two of interesting bits for the old BBC machines. A few full screen bitmaps (displayed using a custom program on the disk using the machine's "mode 0" (640x256 black & white) IIRC), I think using some form of RLE compression to fit more on a disk without taxing the 6502 too much, some were dithered photo scans and some looked drawn. There were also ASCII-art files (mostly too big on-screen without scrolling but could easily be printed).

This isn't really the same thing, but in art form, a company called "American Multiple Industries" published pornographic Atari 2600 games in the early 80's. The most infamous of which was Custer's Revenge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Custer%27s_Revenge (Possibly NSFW)

Its interesting that there is no mention of interlaced image formats in the article. Interlacing allowed you to see a gradually filled-in image on slow dial up links.

I have a feeling that nudes were the reason it was invented.


The article also misses (I)LBM, interleaved bitmap, which was a de-facto standard image format for games in the late 80s/early 90s. Also the default file format of Deluxe Paint. According to http://fileformats.archiveteam.org/wiki/ILBM the first spec was published in 1986.

Of course I had strip poker on my c64, it was the bomb to a 7 year old mind.

Strip tetris was also a thing. But AFAIR when you won it would tell you "Shame on you" :)

It was certainly possible to do nude photos in the 1960s and 1970s, with a bit of work.

Pictures converted to ASCII and then printed out over multiple sheets of dot-matrix fanfold paper could be taped together and then you would have a poster of your photo.

I never saw this done for nudes, but I did see it done with a Star Trek photo. People were more pure back in those days.

My college roommate was still using a PC/XT in the WWW era. He used NCSA Telnet for DOS and its alternate graphics terminal, a Tektronix 4014 emulator, to browse the web, usenet, gopher, and FTP sites. Images displayed perfectly well on his primitive machine, although they were being decoded by a distant DEC AlphaServer running VMS.

When I was a kid I had a 286 with VGA. However the monitor I had was black and white (64 shades of gray). It required to run a special program to map colors to shades of gray correctly. But the photos looked fantastic - in black and white of course. Much better than in 256 colors. Plus nudes in b&w look more "artistic" ;)

Slightly related: people still use CRTs for high quality viewing of 16x16 booty instead of 4K booty.


Anecdata: We had pamela anderson bitmaps on HP48G series.

I remember 9 year old Ryan discovering fservs on IRC in 1994 or 1995 and having his mind blown at downloading some random image file and it turning out to be a nude woman and being both horrified and mildly curious (but not sexually interested, yet). The quality was crap, and continued to be so for the next several years as I revisited this as a teen with some regularity.

Oddly, I think the Lenna example images, as nudity, in the article on vintage hardware may have actually held my interest more than the stuff did well into 1998 or 1999. Actually, the Lenna and other PG/PG-13 images in those technical styles may have interested me more than the nude images of better quality.

Back in the day, you didn't have to be a hacker genius to figure out that if you swapped Suzi5.pic with Suzi1.pic, then she would start the round of strip poker undressed.

Seeing as you could use a 1959 IBM 1401 to print out nude pin-ups ( http://www.threedee.com/jcm/aaa/ ) and subsequent examples ( https://asciipr0n.com/ ) - the answer is an unqualified yes.

Also: http://girls.c64.org

Glad you had examples, was going to mention that back in the day one could find some naughtiness in color on a commodore 64 - but as the post mentions retro pcs - I recalled being able to get shared files and print on an okidata printer several sheets of paper, that when done gave you a decent nude centerfold type thing from ascii - closest I recall from the ibm types back then.

> BWWWWBWWWW can be saved as 1B3W1B4W

I've never understood, in explanations of run length encoding, why they always default to putting counts before literals. Isn't it sensible to know what a thing is before knowing how much of it there is?

Count-first also tends to waste encoding space, since it's not clear what a code ending on a count should mean. Literal-first makes it more intuitive to make the code bijective (all codes corresponding to exactly one decoding), and why wouldn't you want to?

I'm curious what you mean. Why does it matter which order the count and literal are encoded? You always need both anyway to do anything useful.

Some RLE encodings use negative values for a block of non-repeating data. So in its simple form AAABCD would be encoded as 3A -3BCD . Without negative values this would be encoded as 3A 1B 1C 1D. The .TGA RLE format worked roughly like this. All of this means you need the length before you can look at the next bytes.

See e.g. page 24/27 of https://www.dca.fee.unicamp.br/~martino/disciplinas/ea978/tg...

The reason in explanations is clear, it's how people naturally think about it "You have 1 B, then 3 Ws...". People don't say aloud "You have B times 1, then W times 3".

Well, it's how people talk about it, in English. Unless they're talking about dollars or yen, where the unit comes first for some reason!

In english writing, sure.

I don't think I've ever heard someone say "That'll be dollar 50" though? I they did, I'd assume they were talking about something that costs $1.50

Which he doesn't: both times it's four Ws. Seemed odd to me, but then bugs get into everything :)

I do RLE for my interview question, so I've considered it a lot.

Either way works ok. If you're doing RLE at the bit level, you only need counts and not values, but that's obscure.

If you do count first, you can use a zero count to indicate a run of single repeats. There are many other ways to do that, though.

I've never seen anyone come up with an encoding that was ambiguous to decode. Of course, there's usually many ways to encode something.

Whenever there are many ways to encode something, there's wasted room in the encoding space :) Not usually a big deal, but when the goal is compression, I think it's nice if it can be avoided.

Regardless of how you do your RLE, you're almost certainly going to have many ways to encode something: you can almost certainly encode a run of four as two runs of two (you wouldn't want to, of course, but you could). It's not an encoder you tend to use if you want to use the absolute smallest amount of space, it's good if your data has enough repeats to get compression and your encoding/decoding systems are very resource constrained.

It makes a nice interview problem because compression is a real problem, but RLE needs almost zero previous knowledge, has many reasonable answers, doesn't have a gotcha solution, and most people haven't done it before. Lots of typically better compression algorithms out there, but I don't think any are suitable for general interview.

Yeah, in a bijective RLE, one needs to take into account that, say, A2A2 can't mean the same as A4.

However, since you also want to be able to represent runs longer than 255 (if you're doing it on byte level), you can solve both problems. If you encounter repeated runs of the same literal, just combine them into a bigger number. So A2A2 should be read as "A times (0b00000010 00000010)" whereas A4 should be read as "A times (0b00000100)."

There are some subtleties still to make it a bijective code, related to end handling and how to represent variable length numbers uniquely, but it's perfectly possible, and once you get it right it isn't really larger than "regular" RLE.

It's an interesting challenge to write bijective encodings. I feel it's a bit like writing quines, you have to keep in mind a thing you usually don't. For quines, "what this does to the text you need to output", for bijective encodings, "what this does for the inverse function". Not saying you should give it as an interview question, though!

> Literal-first makes it more intuitive to make the code bijective (all codes corresponding to exactly one decoding), and why wouldn't you want to?

I don't understand how literal-first make all codes correspond to exactly one decoding. Do you have an example?

Also, why 1B and not just B? As such the compressed size would be at most the same as original, but never larger than?

Well that one is more understandable. You can't tell literal from counts except by convention. If we assume ASCII encoding, you don't know if it's a 'B' or a count of 66. It makes sense when you're encoding something with lots of runs, that you use every second word for literals and every second word for counts.

I just don't understand why they start with counts, that's all.

Ah, so obvious indeed.

So is '2' a one-byte sequence or the start of a three-byte sequence?

91 ? 9 : 111111111

My father brought home the pictured Compaq portable computer back in the 80s. It's what started my fascination computers and ultimately 25+ year career in tech.

In 1984 MacPaint images were spread on CompUServe and BBSes. Someone made a ReadMac program for the MS-DOS machines using CGA to scroll the picture in black and white using 640x200 monochrome mode.


In 1983, on Apple ][+ machines, I can confirm that I definitely saw R-rated pictures of women on monochrome screens via unapproved software running on our computers at the high school I was attending.

But we were more likely to get kicked out of the computer lab for playing unauthorized computer games than for porn. We were a weird bunch of kids.

I don't remember what year it was, but a friend of mine's dad had a bootleg NES cartridge with dirty images on it.

there's another technique: define your own charset (a mapping of a char to a 8x8 pixel grid) and then render your image as an ascii screen in this charset. This technique was used often on C64. It's also easy to do animations as the charset can be switched instantly. It does require a lot of preprocessing though.

About the oldest I can recall is ASCII art printer nudies.

At 132 columns of text on 17" wide fanfeed stock, decent-ish resolution is possible especially considering the vertical resolution is unlimited.

This is long enough ago that printing one of those off in a school or corporate setting would earn you a finger wagging at worst.

I vaguely remember going through a bunch of 5 1/4 floppies my dad had with our IBM PCjr and finding porn on them. That was the only computer we had with that kind of drive. Yeah you needed to go through two layers of DOS boot disks to get at em but there was nude lady pics.

I was in highschool in the late 1980's, and clearly remember "CGA porn". Often 640x200 mono images that automatically scrolled/panned. But also "animated" images comprised of just a handful of frames.

Of course PC porn totally exploded once VGA was released.

Ugh, the 256 color VGA Lenna has horrible palette selection, most probably none at all (using the default palette). That picture could look so much better!

It seems like one of these things, where what used to be reasonably common technical knowledge has now largely been lost.

I distinctly remember a video game series from then 90s that was based around this concept called Leisure Suit Larry. I can neither confirm nor deny playing any such game, but I can confirm it was possible to display nude pictures.

It's a bit mind-blowing to current computer users that back then we needed to exit the terminal emulator and then run a program to see what a GIF image looked like.

There were entire BBS areas devoted to porn before GIF or JPEG were even invented.

Those of us doing support in student computer labs at the time regularly would walk into the rooms in the morning and be greeted with all green screens displaying x-rated animated ASCII art

No mention of Sam fox strip poker on the zx spectrum in 1986. By the time 16 machines came along and disk swapping was common things became quite convincing. High chance of getting a virus that way though.

On the c64 too, along with assorted other games with nudity ranging from crudely drawn images to scans. And one of the first things the improved graphics of the Amiga was used for was whole series of floppies with scanned nude images.

Wait until you find out all the efforts us Generation X olds put into watching scrambled porn channels on cable TV…

Ahh decoding atari strip poker images was fun for me as a teenager. Turned out to be xor with a number increasing by one for each pixel.

Not to any hires degree, which is why engineers developed the hardware and software we have today.

Not really nude pictures - but I remember playing "Leisure Suit Larry" on MS-DOS as a kid.

yes, it is still a thing.

While not a NSFW, it goes like this:

 MMMMMMMMHH....:'''''::.::I,.: MII:
 MMMMMMMMM::.::'''   '':::IH:IM:: IM.
 MMMMMMMMMMII:'' '    ''::I::  :MMMM.
 MMMMMMMMMMII:.        ':I:.,MMMMM':
 MMMMMMMMMMMMMII::.. .:II: '::II:''.,:''''::..,
 MMMMMMMMMMMMMMI:::.:I::.. .. ..:'' ,.:'''::,   ':,
 MMMMMMMMMMMHII::'II::....' .:'                   ::.,
 IHIMMMMMMMMMMMMMHI::....::::: :'        ::            '.
  '':HMMMMMMMMMMHHHHHI:..::::II::' .::::::III:,,           ',
       'IHMMMHHHHHHIHIIIIHHHH:    ,'' ::,  .::..         ',
          'MMMHHHHHIIHHHHHHHII: .:::    ::::::::......    ....:,
           MMHHHHHHHIHIIHHIIII  '...''''   '''H:IIHII...    ...',
          .MMHHHHHHHHHHIIIIII':' .....    .:::::II.  'HHH:..    .. ,
         .MMMMMHHHHII::'''  ''       ..     .....:HI:,  II:..  ...::
        ,MHMMMMMHH:.''      ...            ..   ...::H:,  'I::.    .:
       .IMHMMMHI:''     ..:. I       ..    ..    ...::II,  'II....   ::..
       IMHIMMI:''         . :                      ....::H:  I:: .    ...
       MMHIMMI:.''    ..:    ...:            ...      ....II,'I:....    .
      'MMHIMM:'':.    .         .. .     .. ,:           ,.IIHI:::.
      IMIHMMI:::''           .     ,                  .,,  ..::IHIII...
      IMIHMMM.......                .                         ..::HH:..
      HMIHMMMH:.       .                                    ...:::IIHHI.
      IHIMMM::...                                              ''':::::::
      :MMHOM:..  .       ...       I II..... .                     ''':::
      'MIHMMI:...       :::..    .     I. :::::.. ...::....  ..        ''
       MMHMMM:...  ..         .:.....:.III:::.........::::........   ..
       HMIMMI:...         ..:::::::::III:H:IIHII:::::...::::.........
       IMHIMM:.....         ....:::::III:IIIHHHHHHH'III:....:..........


When I was 10 I had floppy disks with short porn loops. CGA display adapter, 8086 machine.

I'm pretty sure everyone who bought Leisure Suit Larry thought it was possible.

I thought doing this on my HP 48G was low-tech, but these really take the cake.

In the old days, using technology to watch porn was fun. Nowadays, with VR devices locked down and controlled by their vendors, not so much ...

Yes (DOS 6, cpu Intel 8088).

what a ridiculous question.

Porn was always there--people seriously opposed the VHS tape format because of the possibility for porn. But I don't think anybody anticipated the world of porn that the instant-phone-loading Internet created.

Strip Poker 1982 on (NSFW I guess) -


On the C64 we worked out to just rename the pics (last as first so you start naked)

Can't remember if it took us using the Action Replay or not.

Having 2 pictures super high res on PC was a big thing in the early 90's (for school kids)

I'd love to see them now... In my mind they were 4k...


Pirn? What do you have against spools of thread? https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pirn

Or maybe you mean popcorn, which, I agree, is a pox at the office with its smell!

Ahh Lenna - the Henrietta Lacks of image processing algorithms.

I haven't seen much written about the impact of porn on technological advancement. I guess its rather a dark, parallel history that no one really talks about

Sexuality is one of the biggest internal and external influencer on everything we do in life. Work, pleasure, friends and also technology. Sex is what identifies us. Yet, in de west, specially in the US people find it very difficult to talk about it. Some groups (religious or not) even deliberately try to cover everything up resulting in perverse behaviour which unfortunately is also very high in the US.

"Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power" - Oscar Wilde

> Yet, in de west, specially in the US people find it very difficult to talk about it.

It sounds like you have a specific, non-western culture in mind which finds it very easy to talk about about sex.

Which is it?

I don't know much about the culture specifically, but I'm reminded of the story about the Indonesian president whom the KGB tried to blackmail by taping him being seduced by two flight attendants.

> Before starting the blackmail, KGB invited Sukarno in a small private movie theatre and showed him the pornographic video, in which he was playing the main part. KGB agents were expecting him to get really frightened, that he would agree to cooperate with them at once, but everything happened vice versa: Sukarno fondly decided that it was a gift from the Soviet government, so he asked for more copies to take them back to Indonesia and show them in movie theatres. Sukarno said to flabbergasted agents that the people of Indonesia would be very proud of him, if they could see him doing the nasty with Russian girls.

Apparently the CIA also got in on the action, producing a fake sex tape of Sukarno, in order to kick off a revolution (to oust Sukarno).

More details here (along with the KBG story): https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-cia-and-kgb-tried-to-bl...

I would guess they would point to Asia, or Europe.

Even though asian countries view sex as just another thing and not so much sex positive.

In 1994, the New York Times published a story with one of its more vivid titles which has stuck in my head ever since: "Porn, the Low-Slung Engine of Progress" [0]. It makes the point that at many key moments of technological development throughout history, porn has driven adoption of new tech. Expensive VCR sales (and perhaps apocryphally, VHS winning over Beta due to Sony shunning porn) was driven by porn availability. Bulletin Board Systems, chat rooms, CD-ROMs, etc. all had pornographic elements, even if it was just stories or text chat.

The referenced article in this thread mentions some of the history of the Lena image, but Wired did a good job finding the actual woman in question and talking about some of the social history. [1]

I was never on the Well, Fidonet, CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy or any other BBS systems, but from this article [2] you can see that low-res text-based block character "images" were possible. The minute you can make something display an image, someone is going to figure out how to put porn on it.

Apparently there was MacPlaymate, a 1-bit image depth interactive program (distributed on 3.5" floppies) from 1986. NSFW [3]

Usenet was definitely part of the early mass sharing of porn online, but as far as I can tell image binaries date (e.g. alt.sex.pictures.erotica.* or alt.sex.binaries.*) more to early 1990s, not 80s. Downloading low-res images over a 14.4 modem in multiple UUencoded text messages based only on a title (or perhaps a frequent, trusted poster) and re-constructing them into a GIF or JPG was very very slow, but where there's a will there's a way - or so I'm told...

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/09/arts/porn-the-low-slung-e...

[1] https://www.wired.com/story/finding-lena-the-patron-saint-of...

[2] https://spectrum.ieee.org/social-medias-dialup-ancestor-the-...

[3] https://imgur.com/a/LhTrq

porn is at the front of technological advancement. Was doing reverse billed SMS payment systems for mobile content early 2000s, and our biggest customers were porn sites.

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