Instagram Meets Telidon

The Telidon Art Collection at Inter/Access

Marin Balabanov

Chapter 4. Color of Space: The NAPLPS Graphics Protocol

"If it looks like computer graphics, it is not good computer graphics."
- Jeremy Birn

The Telidon 709 graphics standard evolved into the North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax (NAPLPS). Graphics data was encoded as a single ASCII character, represented by the letter "A" and the number "1" in the form of a hexadecimal number of characters. The graphic coordinates were encoded and marked to be placed in printable ASCII areas so that they could be transmitted using traditional text transmission techniques.

The instructions were decrypted by a separate program to generate the graphical output for the sample plotter and then transferred to the Telidon program for processing.

The interactive graphics terminal produced by Norpak could decode the instructions and display them on a color display.

Figure 15

Figure 15: The NAPLPS' graphics capabilities.

NAPLPS also offered proportional text spacing, which significantly improved the quality of the displayed pages. It added the ability to define the size of each line of text as well as the number of lines per page and the distance between them.

The data encryption system had been standardized and even submitted for universal standardization by the International Data Encryption Standard (IDES) and the World Wide Web Consortium (WCC).

Figure 16

Figure 16: The NAPLPS' graphics capabilities.

Where Is NAPLPS Today?

After NAPLPS evolved out of Telidon 709, it was used in some Bulletin Board Systems. BBSs delivered content to computer users who dialed into it. In the 1980s and early 1990s, email services and content could already be found in these BBSs along with graphics. This was before the advent of websites and social media channels but was very much in their vein. The most prominent service using NAPLPS was the Prodigy online service that pioneered the concept of an online content portal. NAPLPS was the foundation of Prodigy's success, enabling the service to provide a single location for news, sports, weather, shopping, and travel. Another well-known service in the late 1980s and early 1990s was called the Sports Plus Network, which broadcasted sports news and results for those who were not otherwise on the air.

As data transfer speeds increased and the compression of raster graphics became popular, the ability to encrypt complex graphics into concise object commands disappeared. The need for NAPLPS started to wane.

NAPLPS could be regarded as an ancestor of the Graphical Kernel System (GKS) library, based on Digital Research's GSX graphics system and its GEM GUI.[39] While these were widely implemented on computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they are now also extinct. But this Graphical Kernel System (GKS) was extended to support 3D graphics. This addition led to the development of OpenGL, a general-purpose graphics API, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.[40] So from a certain perspective, the echo of Telidon's Picture Creation System (PCS) and NAPLPS still faintly reverberates in today's graphics display frameworks.

Still, many regard Telidon's DNA as part of today's World Wide Web. Nell Tenhaaf made the comparison between Telidon and what the web eventually became as "the World Wide Web with its graphical display of stuff and interaction with it off a keyboard, that is very close [to Telidon]. You might not see that now so much because the web is very sophisticated, but in the beginning it wasn't. In the beginning it was just a bunch of graphical pages that branched off."[41]


[39] Shuey. David M. Ansi standards draw attention of graphics industry. Computerworld, March 25, 1985. (Retrieved on February 17, 2020)
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[40] OpenGL Consortium website. (Retrieved on April 2, 2020)
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[41] Vice Motherboard: The Lost Art of Canada's Doomed Pre-Internet Web (Retrieved on March 12, 2020)
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