PETSCII – A Character Set and a Creative Platform

  • Markku Reunanen University of Turku and Aalto University
  • Tero Heikkinen University of the Arts Helsinki
  • Anders Carlsson
Keywords: text art, digital culture, retrocomputing


PETSCII is the built-in character set used on 8-bit Commodore computers, such as the PET, C-64 and Plus/4. The character set and the BASIC environment provided an entry point to rudimentary graphic editing for a generation of hobbyists. Over the years PETSCII has been used for a variety of creative purposes: for example games, demos, telecommunications, videos, books and fine art have been created using the graphical symbols. Through the analysis of existing art works and our own hands-on project – a graphics editor – we dig deeper into the specific properties of the character set. In this article we show how the fixed symbols set the frame for what is possible and how, on the other hand, they provide grounds for creative experimentation, display of skill and recognizable styles.

Author Biographies

Markku Reunanen, University of Turku and Aalto University

Markku Reunanen (, PhD, LicSc, is a senior lecturer at Aalto ARTS and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku. His research interests include digital culture, retrocomputing and digital cultural heritage.

Tero Heikkinen, University of the Arts Helsinki

Tero Heikkinen (, DA, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Academy of Fine Arts in the University of the Arts Helsinki. He studies the uses of media platforms and tools in art. research domains.

Anders Carlsson

Anders Carlsson (, MSc, is an artist and independent researcher interested in the materials, artistic practices and subcultures of old new media.


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How to Cite
Reunanen, M., Heikkinen, T., & Carlsson, A. (2019). PETSCII – A Character Set and a Creative Platform. Replay. The Polish Journal of Game Studies, 5(1), 27-47.