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What do Keith Richards and Margaret Atwood have in common?

October 15, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Keith Richards performs at a Rolling Stones concert in 2006.
Keith Richards performs at a Rolling Stones concert in 2006. (Greetsia Tent / WireImage )

What do Keith Richards and Margaret Atwood have in common? Machine-generated signatures, if one fan's investigation into her signed copy of Richard's "Life" is correct.

A fan who purchased an autographed copy of Richard's memoir has posted that the book was signed using an Autopen, not by the musician himself, Spinner reports. The fan writes that document examiners using "high powered magnification" concluded it was an Autopen signature due to "size, spacing, pen pressure, ink flow, etc."

The Autopen website boasts its machines "provide high quality signature replication with any common pen, pencil, or marker." An Autopen can be used "for general business and public service purposes, including office correspondence, direct mail materials, fundraising letters, diplomas, and awards. The signature/phrase can include icons or small drawings such as 'smiley faces.' hearts, or Chinese symbols." The Keith Richards signature posted includes the year, "'10."

Atwood was a proponent of a slightly different machine signature, the LongPen. In 2004, the Canadian writer conceived of the LongPen, which would enable authors to sign books remotely, hundreds or thousands of miles away.

With the LongPen, a video link allowed author and book buyer to see and talk to one another. The author could also see an image of the page she was signing; the author wrote on a touch-sensitive screen, while a remote robot arm signed the book with a normal pen.

The LongPen has never quite caught on; during a 2006 demonstration with Atwood in London and book buyers in New York, the technology failed. Maybe today it would be easier to pull off.

The fan who got what she believes to be an Autopen autographed copy of "Life" by Keith Richards is content with the purchase. The fan wrote, "It only cost me the cover price and shipping, so it's not like I got ripped off."

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