NORWOOD PARK — No longer will hot-dog lovers be forced to spell out their love for encased meats on social media or in texts with dry, boring, black and white letters.
With the latest update of its operating system, Apple made a full-color hot-dog emoji available for users of Macs and iPhones, enabling them to tweet and text a tiny hot dog, complete with mustard — but no ketchup.
"It has been a long time coming," said Ben Ustick, who with his wife Laura — the granddaughter of Maurie and Flaurie Berman who founded Superdawg at 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Norwood Park— spent nearly two years campaign to correct this glaring error in cyberspace.
First reported by DNAinfo Chicago in January 2014, Superdawg launched a petition on Change.org demanding that a hot dog symbol be added to the more than 50 food items available to smart phone and computer users to use to puncuate their online communications.
Using the hashtag #HotDogEmoji, the campaign took off, launching hundreds of tweets and binding hot dog lovers in their pursuit of justice. Even the Wall Street Journal covered the campaign, after compiling a detailed history of the colorful pictures invented by Shigetaka Kurita that rose to popularity in Japan before taking over America.
"We put a lot of time and effort into this," Ben Ustick said. "This was just us following our passion for hot dogs, and spending hours at home tweeting about hot dogs and emojis."
In June, Uncicode — the governing body that sets the standard for online communication — agreed to include a hot dog emoji among 37 images approved for use.
But that left the ball in Apple's court, since until the computer giant added the emoji to its operating systems no one would be able to use it easily.
"There were moments when it seemed like it was so close to happening, and then it wouldn't," Ustick said.
All that ended Wednesday, when the latest update included a hot dog with a delicate line of mustard right down the middle.
Ustick acknowledged that the push for a hot dog emoji started as a "silly thing."
But it evolved into a demand that hot dog lovers be able to express themselves and their culture along with pizza aficionados and sushi fanatics, Ustick said.
And like all emotional campaigns, the push for a hot dog emoji was tinged with controversy.
Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, based in New York, drew Superdawg's ire when the company proclaimed itself the "official voice" demanding a hot dog emoji.
"They did it for the marketing," Ben Ustick said, noting that Nathan's asked petition signers for their email — something Superdawg never did. "We tried to include everyone. We didn't make this about Superdawg. We did it for the love of hot dogs."
The original hot dog emoji was designed by Jenny Pfäfflin and featured a ribbon of neon green relish, like all Superdawgs. However, the relish didn't make the final version — which is all right with the Usticks.
However, if the emoji had included ketchup — prohibited in the world of Chicago-style hot dogs and never allowed on a Superdawg — all bets would have been off, Ben Ustick said.
"If there had been ketchup on that hot dog emoji, we would have spent the next two years petitioning to have it removed," Ustick said, laughing. "I'm glad they got it right."
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