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"It was my preferred entertainment when I was a kid, so when I set out to be a writer, it was perfectly natural that I should write the sort of stories that I used to enjoy reading."
- John Brunner

Data-Retrieval Mode  
  A system for getting the thoughts and images out of a person's mind; recovering the data from a brain storage device.  

This is a relatively early reference I for the idea of being able to directly observe another person's mental images through the use of some sort of electronic device.

... a man in the bare steel chair ... Tiny adhesive pads held sensors in position at a dozen places on his scalp...throat..heart...solar plexus...From each sensor a lead, fine as gossamer, ran to the ... data-analysis console .. with display screens and signal lights on its slanted top.

"...It's done with induced current in the motor senses. I'm going to regress him to the appropriate date and key in the same image... and we'll see what develops.

From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

This device precedes others like it in sf, like stimsim in the works of William Gibson and others.

See the comments for earlier references; I also think that Cordwainer Smith used this idea in the mid 1950's.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shockwave Rider
  More Ideas and Technology by John Brunner
  Tech news articles related to The Shockwave Rider
  Tech news articles related to works by John Brunner

Data-Retrieval Mode-related news articles:
  - EEGLAB: Independent Component Analysis Reads Your Thoughts
  - An 'OFF' Switch For The Brain
  - The Claustrum - The Brain's On Off Switch?

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Neurodevices For Consumers? Neuroethicists (And Philip K Dick) Say 'Caveat Emptor'
BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery

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