Greyscale paradise

At Soulbath, a British design firm creates an ASCII wonderland.

Published March 17, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Here are some of the interactive delights you'll find when you visit Soulbath, the "greyscale paradise" that was unleashed on the Web Thursday: a tic-tac-toe game you'll never win; Pong for lonely computers; an animation of a little girl with a big, big gun; an online music mixer that lets you create your own techno songs -- and lots and lots of ASCII art, unlike any other you've ever seen.

Soulbath, a rather undefinable project created by the British design group Hi, Res! is one of those Web sites that don't seem to have much of a purpose. That doesn't matter -- the quirky site is good entertainment anyway.

Hi, Res! is a three-person team that likes to call itself an "interdisciplinary group of image chefs." Founded in 1992 by German design students Florian Schmitt and Aim Jugovic, Hi, Res! worked on 3D design for television and produced album covers in Germany before beginning to design Web sites for British record labels like Ninja Tune (Clifford Gilberto, member No. 3, also publishes music on this label.)

Soulbath, which the group itself describes as its experimental online magazine, will be updated three to four times a year and will focus on "ASCII graphics and '60s computer art, all in greyscale." As Schmitt explains in an e-mail, "Soulbath gives us a chance to test some experimental interactive graphics and also do some writing about living in digital disturbance. It's good fun and not as serious as it may sound."

The mission translates into whimsical animations of floating hexagons, vicious ASCII birds of prey, pixelated sketch pads and other oddly captivating doodads. Sure, some people probably have more pressing things to do than gaze at an ASCII Barney or tinker with musical squares. But for the rest of us slackers, Soulbath is a worthwhile way to waste an otherwise dull afternoon.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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