Best Handwriting

Etienne Duble

Judges' comments:

To use:


echo Some text | ./prog


echo Hello, world | ./prog

DRAFT=1 ./prog < prog.c

> [type]

./prog < prog.c

Selected Judges Remarks:

Beautiful penmanship! However, your fonts may vary.

How does this entry compress the font it uses? What’s the purpose of lrand48()? Why does the program dump core, when it does :) ?

Author’s comments:


This program prints text in your terminal with an interesting hand-writing effect.

It uses the braille patterns range of the unicode standard: this allows to consider each terminal character as a tiny 2x4 bitmap.

Turning the Braille code into something visual might be considered blasphemous. When I was fighting to make this program work, I started wondering if it was not the reason for its very erratic behaviour.

prog.c vs prog.orig.c

The file prog.orig.c is the one I submitted.

Gil Dogon noted a few unsafe statements (statements whose behaviour is undefined in the C standard and, as such, could cause issues with other compilers or optimization levels). These have been fixed in prog.c. After this fix, in order to remain rule-2-compliant, a variable name has also been shortened in this file.

How to build

If you have clang:

$ CC=clang make -e

Otherwise (gcc):

$ make

(You will get a few warnings in this case.)

How to use it

You need a terminal configured to handle an UTF-8 encoding and a font including braille patterns. This is the default on most modern GNU/Linux operating systems. The default terminal application (gnome-terminal) or even a simple xterm should render things properly. I tested this on several Debian and Ubuntu systems, 32 and 64bits (no configuration was needed). I also tested it on FreeBSD 9.3 32bits (font and encoding configuration was needed in this case).

Basic mode:

$ echo 'I am testing this thing.' | ./prog
[... rendering ...]

$ ./prog < lorem-ipsum.txt
[... rendering ...]

Interactive mode:

$ ./prog
> hello world!!!
[... rendering ...]


This entry is obfuscated in various ways:

On the other hand, the following may help:



In order to comply with the size rule, I encoded only a part of the visible ASCII chars:

a-z, A-Z, '.' ':' ',' ';' '!' and '?'.

Uppercase and lowercase chars are rendered the same. The program also understand the space and the linefeed (\n). Other chars are simply ignored (most of the time ;)

Stack size

This limitation is due to the heavy use of recursivity. After having processed a large number of characters, the process may exceed the stack size and crash. (However I did not experience this myself. The top-level recursion might be removed by the compiler as part of its optimizations.)

Line rendering

The program does its best to avoid cutting words at the end of lines, but it could still happen in case of long words.

Subtleties and extra features

Handling more than text docs?

Given the limited set of characters handled, the program is mostly limited to simple text documents. Thus, if you try for example:

$ ./prog < prog.c 

You will not get something that looks like C code. (but you can still try, if you are curious. :)

A ‘draft’ mode

Defining an environment variable called DRAFT will enable the ‘draft-mode’. Try for example:

$ echo 'testing the draft mode' | DRAFT=1 ./prog

The program will run much faster but the rendering will be less precise.

The subtle interactive mode

I saved the best for last: usually, programs that handle an “interactive mode” have to check whether their standard input is a terminal or not (by using isatty()). Did you notice that this program does not perform any such detection, but still behaves (or seems to behave) appropriately?

Creative Commons License

© Copyright 1984-2016, Leo Broukhis, Simon Cooper, Landon Curt Noll - All rights reserved
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.