Back then BitTorrent was a relatively unknown technology that, for the first time in history, allowed users to share large videos with groups of people all over the world.
One of the torrents that gained quite a bit of traction in the early days is an ASCII version of The Matrix. This piece of fan art is a re-coded version of the original movie in green text on a black background, resulting in a rather unique viewing experience.
Thanks to BitTorrent, the creator of The Matrix ASCII was able to share his work with thousands of people. Exactly 10 years ago today on December 20, 2003, the torrent for this release was created.
A few weeks later the torrent file was first shared online, along with an ASCII DVD cover and insert. In the months and years that followed thousands of copies of the film were downloaded worldwide, and even today it is still being shared by a dozen people every day.
To the best of our knowledge, this means that The Matrix ASCII is the oldest torrent that’s still being actively shared.
Perhaps worried that Hollywood wouldn’t appreciate the effort, the DVD file comes with a small disclaimer.
“This work is a parody. As such I do not believe that this DVD has any possibility of competing with the original in any market. It is not for sale,” the disclaimer reads.
Prospective downloaders have very little to worry about though, as Warner Bros. is not known to go after this type of fan-art that’s created for non-commercial use.
The people who’ve downloaded a copy of The Matrix thus far responded mostly positively after watching the ASCII movie. That is, those who knew what to expect.
“This is absolutely INCREDIBLE!!! EASILY one of the coolest things I’ve EVER seen! Where’d you get the notion to do something like this!?!?!?!” one person noted in a comment highlighted on The Matrix ASCII website.
Others, who assumed that they had downloaded a copy of the original Matrix movie, were less happy with the ASCII version.
“Dude, tell me what to do with this Matrix ASCII, cause the picture is all green n stuff, can’t even see what’s going on. And, its in 4 VOB files, but why?” was the response of an unhappy downloader.
All in all it’s safe to say that The Matrix ASCII has become a fine piece of Internet history. The tale of its survival in itself has now become a reason for people to download it as a collectors’ item.
The question is, however, will it survive another decade?