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"You have to budget the number of fuzzy rules you use to control a system. It turns out, you can state the optimality principle in three words: 'patch the bumps.'"
- Bart Kosko

Soft Speaker  
  A device that sends a tightly-controlled beam of sound.  

Just another one of Dr. Methuen's prankster inventions. Here's how it went down:

The next man to suspect that the Yale campus was undergoing a severe pixillation was John Duggan, the tall thin one of the two campus cops. He was passing Christ Church ... a still small voice spoke in his ear.

"Beware, John Duggan! Your sins will find you out!" ...there was nobody within fifty feet of him.

In this case, "pixillation" refers to "pixie" + "lation." And how was it done?

".. There's the soft-speaker, for instance --"

"What's that?"

"It's like a loud-speaker, only it doesn't speak loudly. It throws a supersonic beam, modulated by the human voice to give the effect of audible sound frequencies when it hits the human ear. Since you can throw a supersonic beam almost as accurately as you can throw a light beam, you can turn the soft speaker on a person, who will then hear a still small voice in his ear apparently coming from nowhere."

Technovelgy from The Exhalted, by L. Sprague de Camp.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1940
Additional resources -

Dr. Methuen has additional uses in mind, with some modifications to the original device.

I knocked together an improved sound speaker. This one'll work through masonry walls. I'm going to put all the undergraduates to sleep and tell'em they're monkeys... They're practically monkeys to begin with, so it shouldn't be difficult."

Original quote contributed by Harold Miller - thanks!

Compare to the green bullet from Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 or the raisin from Bart Kosko's 1987 novel Noontime.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Exhalted
  More Ideas and Technology by L. Sprague de Camp
  Tech news articles related to The Exhalted
  Tech news articles related to works by L. Sprague de Camp

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