Forget Napster and Java. The most revolutionary technologies often attract the fewest headlines. Here are two innovations that set the business agenda.

How SIG-nificant
WHAT The signature file, better known as the “sig file” —
a few lines of text appended to e-mail messages
WHEN Circa 1980
WHERE Probably somewhere on FidoNet, or some other early online bulletin boards that gave way to Usenet
WHO Unknown. Sig files are so easy to create, no self-
respecting nerd has stepped forward to claim parentage.

If e-mail is the Internet’s killer app, the signature file represents the assassin’s initials etched on the bullet. Sig files describe who the sender is — job title, phone number, and so on. But they also reveal what the sender is about, because the essence of a sig file is the digital sound bite affixed below one’s coordinates. Some choose an inscrutable observation: “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” Others go for inspiration: “All people smile in the same language.”

Standing at the juncture of the oldest instinct for self-expression and the newest zeal for self-promotion, the sig file is a perfect embodiment of the New Economy. Sig files signify status. In the egalitarian world of cyberspace, nobody knows whether you’re a dog or a CEO. The sig file tells where you stand. And those little quotations, seemingly so benign, reflect a deeper human yearning in the tradition of “Kilroy was here!” which scrawled out proof that you

you can find quotations for your own sig file at or