Warchalking is the repetition of drawing symbols by chalk on surfaces in public places such as sidewalks and walls to specify a nearby wireless network. The Great Depression strongly influenced the design of these warchalking symbols, that is, “tramp symbols.” The concept originated in the UK in 2002 and quickly increased in popularity. Then, warchalking consumes lost much of its luster, but the idea of using symbols to indicate the availability of Wi-Fi holding computer.
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Symbols of Warchalking
The warchalker’s arsenal includes only three different symbols, but these are enough to alert passersby to the presence and configuration of a nearby wireless access point. Two broken semicircles facing in opposite directions indicate a fully open Wi-Fi® network. Simultaneously, a full circle designates a closed access point that may require some form of payment or have other restrictions. A complete process with the letter “W” inside it scripts a network protected by encryption. The Service Set Identifier (SSID), a user-defined name that identifies the web, may appear above the symbol, while the available network bandwidth may appear below. They are all meant to remain drawn with chalk.
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The Concept of Warchalking
The concept of warchalking and his symbols’ design was heavily influenced by the vagrant sign language used during the Great Depression. These symbols were simple marks to communicate a free meal, danger, or other general information among the homeless of the 1920s and 1930s. The warchalking characters are not drawn directly from vagrant sign language, but the stylistic influence is evident.
British information architect Matt Jones shaped both the idea and the term warchalking in 2002. The period remained a deliberate reference to “warwalking,” the act of walking through a neighborhood in search of Wi-Fi signals. Within a few weeks, Jones’ idea had become something of a digital fad. And shared on blogs and tech news sites. A community of warchalkers seemed to seem overnight; one businessman even designed a t-shirt inspired by the phenomenon.
Warchalking has since remained largely forgotten. Numerous websites dedicated to the grassroots movement have disappeared, and most of the chalk symbols have vanished. In an age where wireless networks are ubiquitous, users often don’t need to waste time searching for an access point. Still, the idea of using symbols to indicate the availability of Wi-Fi® service was not a complete failure; many coffee shops, coffee shops, and bookstores use stickers or signs to announce to customers that wireless access is available.
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