Nerd content and
cringe since 1999
Alexander Grupe

June 2024



My IDE seems to think this, it just hates tabs – that is: the tabulator character to indent your code and your text files. Whenever it is restarted, my tabulator settings are reverted from proper tabs to 4 spaces:

Now, as a seasoned pragmatic programmer, I know to refrain from any tedious tabs-vs-spaces debate*. How about you refrain from messing up my formatting settings, IntelliJ? These issues have been around for ages – and yes, I do update my IDE from time to time, and no, I will not resort to editing some hidden configuration options by hand.

*) Because there is no debate. :) Observe the process of adding and removing a tab the correct way, and when poorly emulating tabs with spaces:

When editing code files outside of the IDE (in vim, nano, or in CygnusEd on the Amiga), this becomes even worse. To keep a consistent code format, you now have to type in 4 to 8 spaces like a monkey if you merely want to add a tab.

While consulting various Teletext services to track the latest projections of the European elections, I was reminded how many German TV stations employ advanced Telext features to render graphical station logos. (Teletext Level 2.5, from 1995!)

Well, four, at least… :)

Interesting graphics glitch of ZDF’s logo loading

Here there are, in their full glory, along with their Teletext level 1 fallback renditions.

Ah, the joys of confusing IT concepts and ambiguous names.

When I first read the word “sixels” in the context of Teletext graphics three years ago, that name immediately clicked with me, and I thought it fitting as a catchy combination of “pixel” and “six-element mosaic character”. I mean, it’s obviously exactly what you should call these little guys:

Today I learned that “sixel graphics” is also used in a very different context, describing a special graphics mode of oldschool terminals and dot matrix printers. Here, sixels aren’t the elements of a tiny 2×3 grid, but a vertical row of six dots! Since it can be used to display graphical data in your terminal, it’s widely used even today. You only need a bunch of arcane ESC-sequence incantations:


Easy, right? Dump that garbage right into your terminal:

Try it: echo -e -n "\x1bPq#0?Ehle_ehlE??BF{{FB?^~__~^?]~\`\`\`?~~CMzp?nn\x1b\"

Luckily, there’s no room for debate on which concept denotes the true sixels!

  • Teletext went live in 1974
  • That “SIXEL graphics” hack came years after that – around 1983 apparently, with the introduction of the DEC LA-50 printer

So, go have fun with your shenanigangs in those newfangled terminal emulators, but keep your ugly ESC sequences off my TV screen! And maybe invent a better name, while you’re at it. How about “POOP” – pixel obfuscation for obsolete printers? :)

previous next close