Know Your Meme: All Your Base Are Belong to Us

When an evil, enigmatic villain named “CATS” threatens the very balance of the universe, a few things get lost in translation.

CATS All Your Base Are Belong to UsAccording to Knowyourmeme.com, All Your Base Are Belong to Us (AYBABTU, AYB) “is a popular catchphrase that swept across the Internet at the dawn of the 21st century, as early as in 1998.”

Origin
Zero Wing, a side-scrolling, shooting game set in space, was first introduced to arcades in 1989. The player, the lone starfighter of a “ZIG” spacecraft, would fire lasers, avoid incoming fire and maneuver through eight levels of enemy invasion.

A1 All Your Base“[The] side-scrolling space shooter might have been doomed to obscurity if not for one of the most hilarious mistranslated “Japenglish” introduction sequences in video game history,” writes Gamespy.com’s William Mistretta. “Instead, it became a nationwide fad… Perhaps the first true geek catchphrase of the new millennium.” Learn more about “Japenglish” or “Engrish” >

When porting the arcade game for play on home systems, the developers wished to expand its plot for European and U.S. audiences. Under pressure of aggressive release dates, the team roughly translated the Japanese dialogue into English, resulting in such infamous lines as “Somebody set up us the bomb,” and “All your base are belong to us… You have no chance to survive make your time!”

Zero Wing’s opening sequence:

Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It’s you !!
CATS: How are you gentlemen !!
CATS: All your base are belong to us.
CATS: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
CATS: Ha ha ha ha …
Operator: Captain !!
Captain: Take off every ‘ZIG’!!
Captain: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move ‘ZIG’.
Captain: For great justice.

Before the founding of YouTube, the more creative of early digital settlers would often upload flash-based movies to Newgrounds.com, where the now famous AYB music video (below) was posted in 2001. It soon spread from inboxes to online forums, before crossing over to the real world in a variety of forms, from t-shirts to mouse pads.

Memelife: Where is CATS Now?
Haven’t seen or heard of All Your Base Are Belong to Us before? Not surprising. Digital years pass like dog years, and countless memes have forced CATS, with his broken English, from the limelight.

The meme has since evolved into an almost secret handshake, its meaning eluding most Internet users; now used a nod to early digital underground culture or as a catchphrase to  establish a semblance of digital street cred.

All Your Base TattooAll Your Base CATS IRLAll Your Base Millionaire

Learn more about All Your Base Are Belong to Us at Knowyourmeme.com >

Show & Tell: ANSI. An Elegant Weapon, for a More Civilized Age

London Blitx ANSI Welcome Screen by Jon BeebeMy adventures as a graphic designer began in the early 1990s, after purchasing a used EGA color monitor from a distantly related cousin. Until that point, a monotonous stream of amber-colored text defined my online existence, scrolling sluggishly upon a black field.

With sixteen foreground colors, and eight background colors now at my disposal, the digital world became my proverbial oyster, and ANSI art? My precious pearl.

TheDraw ANSI Art Program

TheDraw, not as clumsy or random as a blaster or Content Aware filter.

Before Photoshop, Illustrator or Flash were commonplace, I cut my graphic designer teeth on TheDraw, a DOS-based freeware program, which I used to develop simple animations, “logos” and rudimentary artwork.

The Dangerous Lives of ANSI Artists
Many might not realize it, but life as “Icarus,” a young, budding ANSI artist on the cyber streets of yesteryear, was far from safe. A sinister ANSI underground threatened to corrupt my newfound love for digital self-expression.

Not altogether unlike the rather ridiculous dancing gangs of West Side Story, early digital artists would frequently combine creative forces to develop graphics for Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). Their work would often feature multiple signatures, flanked by their group’s tag, like digital graffiti. Creative challenges were made and accepted, with rival groups vying for dominance over a particular online locale. From Wikipedia:

The ANSI art scene was in a continual state of flux, with intense rivalry between artists and groups. In addition, ansi artists tended to switch loyalties often, moving from group to group. Groups would merge and restructure, or completely disband

All kidding aside, ANSI greats, like “Hoax,” “Lord Soth” and iCE’s “Tempus Thales” inspired me to form my own creative – and comparatively pacifistic – gang of artists, WHiP, in 1992. Although I had little success in recruiting notable talent, WHiP produced some amazing work for the local BBS scene – now forever lost.

Having recently uncovered relics from my digital past, here are some samples from the early 1990s (below). Definitely not the best representation of my ANSI work, but the sole remaining examples.

My feelings of nostalgia are intense after viewing these. The countless hours and passion I invested in my early ANSI work help me better appreciate how far we’ve come, and continue to fuel my desire to evolve and grow creatively.

ANSI Artwork SysOp Not AvailableLondon Blitz Welcome ScreenLondon Blitz ANSI Menu