Telnet Movies – A Nostalgic Look at the Dawn of Internet Movie Streaming

Long before Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video transformed the way we consume content, there was a fascinating, lesser-known method for watching movies online: Telnet movies. These text-based movies, transmitted over the Telnet protocol, were a stepping stone in the evolution of internet streaming. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of Telnet movies, their inventor, motivation behind the concept, and the first forum post or email related to them.


Telnet, short for “Teletype Network,” is an application protocol used for communication between remote computers. It was developed in 1969 as part of the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was the precursor to the modern Internet. Telnet enabled users to access and manage remote systems, making it an essential tool for early internet communication.

As the internet became more accessible in the early 1990s, users sought ways to share multimedia content online. This quest led to the birth of Telnet movies. These text-based animations were ASCII art representations of movies, painstakingly converted frame-by-frame into lines of text characters. These text-based movies were then transmitted via the Telnet protocol, allowing users to “stream” them in real-time on their computer terminals.

Invention and Motivation

The concept of Telnet movies can be attributed to a programmer and ASCII art enthusiast named Simon Jansen. In 1997, Jansen began working on a passion project: converting the entire 1977 Star Wars film into ASCII format. This ambitious undertaking required immense dedication, as Jansen manually converted each frame of the film into ASCII art. The project, dubbed “Star Wars ASCIIMATION,” became an internet sensation, showcasing the potential of Telnet movies.

The motivation behind Telnet movies was to push the boundaries of internet capabilities and challenge the status quo. At the time, high-speed internet was still a luxury, and streaming video content was almost impossible. Telnet movies, with their low-bandwidth requirements, offered a unique way to experience multimedia content in a time when technology was still catching up.

The First Forum Post or Email: As the popularity of Telnet movies grew, discussion forums dedicated to the topic started to emerge. One of the earliest known forum posts discussing Telnet movies was made by Simon Jansen himself on the newsgroup “alt.ascii-art” in 1997. Jansen shared his Star Wars ASCIIMATION project with the community, sparking widespread interest in the concept.

List of Telnet Movies

Though the Star Wars ASCIIMATION remains the most iconic Telnet movie, a handful of other ASCII animations have since been created.

  • Star Wars ASCIIMATION (1997) – The first Telnet movie, which covers the 1977 Star Wars film.
  • The Matrix (2000) – A text-based representation of the 1999 sci-fi classic.
  • Jurassic Park (2001) – An ASCII adaptation of the 1993 dinosaur blockbuster.
  • Pulp Fiction (2002) – A text-based retelling of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 crime drama.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (2003) – An ASCII rendition of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi masterpiece.

You can access the telnet movies and more tools via telnet And also, if you install lolcat and run the command with lolcat like telnet | lolcat you can colorize the movies and other outputs like below! : )

Telnet movies represent an important milestone in the history of internet streaming. They demonstrate the creativity and innovation of the early internet community and serve as a nostalgic reminder of how far technology has come. While modern streaming services have long since eclipsed Telnet movies in terms of convenience and accessibility, the ASCII animations will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those who experienced them in their heyday.

As the world of technology continues to advance, we can look back at Telnet movies with admiration for their ingenuity and the spirit of experimentation they represent. The creativity and determination shown by pioneers like Simon Jansen laid the groundwork for the streaming revolution that we enjoy today.

Although Telnet movies are now a niche interest, they continue to inspire a dedicated community of ASCII art enthusiasts and retro tech aficionados. For those interested in experiencing this unique form of entertainment, several Telnet movie servers still exist, allowing users to revisit these text-based animations.

In an era where high-definition video and immersive audio experiences have become the norm, Telnet movies serve as a humbling reminder of the early days of internet innovation. As we continue to push the boundaries of technology, it’s important to remember and appreciate the pioneers who came before us, laying the foundation for the digital world we live in today.

So, the next time you enjoy a movie night streaming the latest blockbuster, take a moment to appreciate the journey that brought us here. From ASCII animations transmitted over Telnet to ultra-high-definition streaming, the evolution of internet movie streaming is a testament to human ingenuity and our relentless pursuit of progress.

I’ve inspired to write this article after read the Gizem’s tweet on twitter. Thank you so much Gizem!