The Lost Art of the .sig

by Nanette Wylde

ASCII art for .sig by Meg Geroch


Long before webpages and internet connections in most homes, email users communicated aspects of their identity via their .sig files. The .sig (stands for signature) is a text file that can be made to automatically attach to the end of an email. As a text file it could only hold the characters of a standard keyboard and was displayed in the standard screen font. Colors, special typefaces, and imagery were not possibilities in .sig files. In general, the .sig would include the owners name and contact information information important to include, but tiresome to type at the end of every missive.

Creatives of all sorts, well, the sorts who had access to and used email, created imagery using the characters of the keyboard otherwise known as ASCII text. This imagery was then integrated into the information in the .sig file and became part of the owners online persona/identity. Oftentimes, quotes would be included giving the receiver additional clues as to the senders philosophical persuasion.

Although we sometimes still see the quotes, nowadays it is rare to receive an email with ASCII art in the .sig. The ease of sending images as attachments may be one reason for this demise of ascii art. Or perhaps now there are just so many people online that it seems a rare individual who includes ASCII art in their .sig file. The image below by Meg Geroch is my all time favorite.(-:"

ASCII art for .sig by Meg Geroch


Standard ASCII art is made with characters, such as: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z \ | - _ + % @ < ; ! = # . , : > ( ] / & $ ^ ' ` " ~ ) [ { } ? * , These characters are part of the ASCII (as - kee, America Standard Code for Information Interchange) set. This part of the ASCII set, is called the 'printable set'. Before computers, ASCII art was made on typewriters, teletype machines, and was created typographically. ASCII art is used because: Standard ASCII art is the only type of graphics easily transmitted and instantly viewable on any terminal, emulation, or communications software.

Nanette Wylde is a cultural worker interested in language, personality, ideas, difference, beliefs, systems,
movement, reflection, identity, perceptions, structures, stories, context, socializations, definitions,
memory, experience, change, and residue. She teaches electronic arts at California State University, Chico.

CyberIsms: Voice, Identity & Communication in the Virtual Realm

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