I well remember ASCII art from the 1960s and 70s. So-called "pictures" were printed on computers and teletype machines that were only capable of printing letters, numbers, and punctuations. I worked in data centers in those years and saw many examples similar to this:
What I never realized was that ASCII art was already old-fashioned by that time. An article by Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic claims that such "art" has been around since the 1890s! All this apparently started when typists create such pictures, one at a time, on typewriters.
You can read Madrigal's article at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/the-lost-ancestors-of-ascii-art/283445/.