A few weeks ago, I was doing some research on the Autopen, a device invented in the 1940s (though its predecessor was created in 1803 by Thomas Jefferson) to automatically duplicate signatures using a real pen. During my reading, I found mention of this insane book, which I was lucky enough to get on Inter-Library Loan.
“The Robot That Helped To Make A President,” written in 1965, is intended for autograph collectors so they could more easily identify real John F. Kenney’s signatures and ones generated by the Autopen. The title alone is worth the price of admission, but I think is more than just camp. It sits historically right between the thoroughly mechanized but still mostly analog era and one where computers are everywhere and do basically everything. The Autopen isn’t just a frustration for autograph aficionados, it’s also a metaphor for the computer replacing something that seems like it should be entirely human: writing one’s name on a piece of paper.
While the language is a mix of 60s goof and a techno-hope (a “huge, faceless robot” which “signs a photograph for his master”), I find this book such a beautiful, physical manifestation of anxiety and intrigue about technology.
Most of the book is autograph collection minutiae, but if you stick it out to the end, you’re rewarded with a beautiful light-blue-colored overlay titled “Seven Robot Signatures” used to test autographs in the wild.
🎄Spending Christmas Eve with the family, training neural nets and researching nano-scale machining (which turned up this sperm-bot above) I got one of the most amazing wooden watches for this Christmas, plus a dermaroller for my skin, I’m also exited about it. #merrychristmas 🎄
Super happy to be spending November in-residence at the Center for New Art, part of the art program at William Patterson University. I’ll be using their giant robot arm (named Daisy) to carve a 6-foot version of the microscopic dust I digitized last year.
From a video on a German robot factory (which features music that sounds like it’s from the end of an anime movie), showing this large facility for testing the robots. Looks like some kind of prison yard workout facility.
Unsettling video of a Mercedes Benz factory, run entirely by orange robots. Their spot-welders form claw-like mouths, making it look as if they’re feeding on sheet metal, occasionally looking at the camera.