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By Noel Young, Correspondent

January 3, 2013 | 3 min read

So how did he do it? When President Obama signed the fiscal cliff deal into law late on Wednesday, he was actually back on holiday in Hawaii, 4800 miles from Washington.

Mashable today shows how he managed it? The secret is an "autopen" - a gadget that copies your pen strokes, memorises them and later replicates them without you being there.

The video shows a "Ghostwriter" model autopen, used by many government officials and celebrities "but is not confirmed to be the exact model used by Obama," says Mashable. Still, you can see how it works.

So why did Obama use the autopen instead of signing personally?

Simply time. The deadline had technically already gone before Congress passed the bill (though markets were closed for New Year).

Once a bill is passed by Congress, the Constitution orders it to be sent to the White House for the president's signature. However, Obama had taken off for Hawaii to resume his family holiday.

The White House had two options: Go old-school and deliver the bill to Obama in Hawaii via an airborne courier, or bring in the autopen.

"Probably because the law was so time-sensitive, it chose the latter." says Mashable.

It's the third time Obama's used an autopen to sign a bill into law. In May 2011, he was the first president to do so by signing a Patriot Act extension from a G8 summit in France. In November 2011 he signed a bill from from Indonesia.

Obama's use of the autopen to sign legislation "inevitably invites constitutional criticism," says Mashable. The Constitution says once a bill reaches the White House, "he (meaning the president) shall sign it." However, the Justice Department wrote a 29-page opinion in 2005 during George W. Bush's presidency that found "..the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill he approves and decides to sign in order for the bill to become law.

"Rather, the President may sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 by directing a subordinate to affix the President's signature to such a bill, for example by autopen."

CBS gave us an interesting side-by-side comparison of documents. On the left is the real deal, on the right is the autopen signature.