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"Science fiction is what scientists would do if they could - if they had enough grant money, enough time, and enough brains to do the wonderful things they would like to do."
- Greg Bear

The Twonky  
  A robotic device from the future, constructed to look like a 1940's radio cabinet.  

The radio's back was toward him. Several limber tentacles were manipulating the dishes, expertly sousing them in hot, soapy water, scrubbing them with the little mop, dipping them into the rinse water, and then stacking them neatly in the metal rack. Those whip-lashes were the only sign of unusual activity.
From The Twonky, by Lewis Padgett.
Published by Street and Smith in 1942
Additional resources -

The story includes some interesting speculation on the mechanism that might create intelligence in a robot:

Your brain's a colloid, you know. Compact, complicated - but slow. Suppose you work out a gadget with a multimillion radioatom unit embedded in an insulating material - the result is a brain... A brain with a tremendous number of units interacting at light-velocity speeds. A radio tube adjusts current flow when it's operating at forty million separate signals a second. And - theoretically - a radioatomic brain of the type I've mentioned could include perception, recognition, consideration, reaction and adjustment in a hundred-thousandth of a second."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Twonky
  More Ideas and Technology by Lewis Padgett
  Tech news articles related to The Twonky
  Tech news articles related to works by Lewis Padgett

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