They’ve played. They’ve practiced. They’ve waited. Tomorrow, college recruits across the country will sign their binding National Letter of Intent for college football — and many will sign digitally using DocuSign.  It only makes sense: Students entering their first year of college are some of the first to have grown up in the digital age. 

The signature has been a powerful symbol throughout history. And while its meaning has remained the same throughout centuries and across countries, its form has evolved, time and time again. As football recruits prepare to sign their names, we’re taking a look back on the history of the signature itself.

3000 BC: Pictographs

Long before the alphabet was invented, many cultures used pictographs to symbolize different words and concepts. A combination of symbols and pictures, Egyptian hieroglyphics are among some of the most well-known pictographs.

1800-1200 BC: The First Alphabet

The Phoenicians developed the first alphabet, which contained 22 consonants and no vowels. This was later adapted by the Greeks and revised to include vowels.

1069: The First Signature

The first known autograph is written on a Sumerian clay table from 3100 BC by the scribe Gar.Ama. The first signature from a well-known historical figure dates back to 1098, and belongs to Spanish nobleman and military leader El Cid.

1600s: Widespread Use

By the 1600s, signatures written on paper had become commonplace. In 1677, The Statute of Frauds was passed by the Parliament of England, determining that certain contracts must include a signature for them to be legally valid.

1869: The Telegraph

Signatures sent via telegraph became legally accepted.

1980: The Rise of the Fax Machine

We playfully poke fun at the fax machine here at DocuSign, but for several decades it was considered a popular and efficient method of sending documents with legally enforceable signatures. While the fax machine was invented in the mid 19th century, its heydey was most certainly in the 1980s. Of course, by the turn of the century many of us carried no small amount of resentment towards the machine — and at the dawn of the digital age it began to take a beating — figuratively, literally, and perhaps most infamously in Office Space. (We feel your pain Peter, Samir, and Michael…)

2000: ESign Act

In 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act was signed into law by President Clinton and passed by Congress. The law ensures the legally binding power and validity of eSignatures.

2003 – Present: The Digital Age and DocuSign

2003 brought the rise of the digital signature with the founding of DocuSign. Today, more than 100 million users in 188 countries complete 62% of documents within one hour using DocuSign – including many of today’s incoming freshmen who are DocuSigning to join the college team of their dreams.

Want to learn more about signatures in the digital age?

This blog is dedicated to all the high school recruits ready to DocuSign their contracts tomorrow. Congratulations and here’s to your college football career!