LongPen By Unotchit: Margaret Atwood's Telautograph For Book Signing

Margaret Atwood has fans on five continents; those book signing tours must be exhausting. Not content to merely write science fiction, she has created a device she calls a LongPen, which allows her to meet and sign books for her fans all over the world from her own home. And in doing so, she has brought into being the telautograph/telephot combination, about which Hugo Gernsback dreamed almost one hundred years ago.


(From LongPen - author viewpoint)

The fan sits down at a desk at a bookstore near his home, and presents his book. He can greet the author via the Internet video chat setup. The author sits in the comfort of her home and greets her fans, signing the book via the Internet-connected LongPen. Once the author has decided what to write, she writes it out on a touchpad.


(Signing via touchpad)

The LongPen makes use of an old-fashioned pen for the signing; it faithfully reproduces the author's comments and signature on the fan's book.


(LongPen book signing)

I wonder if Margaret Atwood knows that she has fully realized not just her own dream, but Hugo Gernsback's as well. In his 1911 classic Ralph 124c 41 +, he writes about a telautograph with a video connection (the Telephot):

She hesitated, and then, impulsively, "I wonder if it would be too much to ask you for your autograph?"

Ralph then attached the Telautograph to his Telephot while the girl did the same. When both instruments were connected he signed his name and he saw his signature appear simultaneously on the machine in Switzerland.
(Read more about Hugo Gernsback's telautograph)

Ms. Atwood, a Canadian writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, plans to unveil the device at the London Book Fair in two weeks. She remarks:

"You don't have to be in the same room as someone to have a meaningful exchange," she said. "As I was whizzing around the United States on yet another demented book tour, getting up at four in the morning to catch planes, doing two cities a day, eating the Pringle food object out of the mini-bar at night as I crawled around on the hotel room floor, too tired even to phone room service, I thought, 'There must be a better way of doing this.'"
(From Booker winner's robot brainwave)

You might be surprised to know that the idea of sending a signature by wire to a remote location was actually realized in the 19th century; click to read more about pantelegraph and Gray's telautograph. Read more about this story at Booker winner's robot brainwave may spell the end of the book tour; see the device video at the Unotchit website.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/19/2006)

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