text-ile is an open-source code base that we developed to create the printed patterns on the sculpture 1055113200.

text-ile is written in JavaScript, and designed to facilitate the rather complicated process of designing, visualizing and printing art onto receipt printer paper. It has several important features

  • an extensible sprite class (current under development here)
  • a powerful multi-column visualization system
  • an abstracted print layer, which means that you can use this project with any printer that has a web based API

We would be delighted if you used this code to produce work of your own. Visit the project on github to get started.

Multi-column visualization

A screenshot of a 13-column visualization from text-ile

When printing on receipts, it’s not only difficult to visualize how a series of ascii characters might look on a narrow column, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine how those columns might look side-by-side. To solve this problem, we built a multi-column visualization system. We used this to plan our designs and layouts, and to visualize how our designs might look.

The number of columns, the contents of each column, and the layout are all code-configurable.

Abstracted Print Class

To build 1055113200 we used a Bixolon SRP-275III. This is a dot matrix receipt printer that we bought for about $250. The SRP-275III has a javascript-based web API and a windows-only print utility. This was not quite ideal, since nearly all of our development team were mac or linux users. However, because of the web API, we were able to do all of our development remotely, and then use a Dartmouth windows computer to do our printing.

The Bixolon web API is a little rough around the edges, and we wanted to make a tool that artists could use with any printer they have access to. Dartmouth undergrad Michael Crockett built this abstraction for us (see PR #70).

Further updates on text-ile's development will be done on github, so please follow along there.