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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Object-Finder Beam  
  A unique device that projected a beam that found what you wanted.  

Now, this is a handy device.

Not knowing where the two ships were at the moment it was not difficult with the object-finder beam to discover their whereabouts, and then with the attractor to draw them to Tola magnetically.
From The Conquest of Gola, by L.F. Stone.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1931
Additional resources -

If you could buy one of these, you would repay the cost from home use alone: car keys, lost remotes for your TV, socks, etc.

The rest of the story is very well-written; a "plot device" this clumsy just adds to the charm of the story.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Conquest of Gola
  More Ideas and Technology by L.F. Stone
  Tech news articles related to The Conquest of Gola
  Tech news articles related to works by L.F. Stone

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