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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Radiant Power Receptor (DeKalbs)  
  A device which received and used energy transmitted from a station or satellite.  

This story appeared a long time ago; it's title survives as a nickname for a real invention (telefactoring devices - called "waldoes")which was first described in this story by the author. One of the most interesting subplots of the story involves what amounts to broadcast power, with cars and appliances no longer in need of engines or wired connections to power sources, respectively.

Heinlein didn't invent the idea of 'radiant power' (that is, wireless transmission of power), but he uses it to great effect in the story.

He had seen radiant power grow up. He had seen the great transmission lines removed from the sky - mined for their copper.
Technovelgy from Waldo, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1942
Additional resources -

By the end of the story, the DeKalb power receptors were 'bewitched' to pull power right out of thin air (Heinlein makes it work in the story - really!) The interesting thing to me about this idea is that scientists are actually working on a similar idea - pulling power out of an alternate universe. If you think that both Heinlein and these scientists are guilty of 'magical thinking', you're not alone. Here's how Heinlein describes it:

"What!" put in Stevens. "You don't mean to stand there and tell me an old witch doctor fixed your deKalbs."

"Not witch doctor - hex doctor..."

The skycar looked quite ordinary. Stevens examined the deKalbs and saw some faint chalk marks on their metal sides... "Watch while I cut in reception."

Stevens waited, heard the faint hum as the circuits became activized and looked.

The antennae of the deKalbs, each a rigid pencil or metal, were bending, flexing, writhing like a cluster of worms. They were reaching out, like fingers.


(Broomstick speeder with Schneider-deKalbs)

Don't miss Heinlein's description of the broomstick speedster, a minimalist craft that could whisk two people from the Earth's surface to a space station in low Earth orbit using the magic of broadcast power.

The first person to actually make wireless transmission of power possible was Nikola Tesla. He built a laboratory in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to develop his idea. The largest Tesla Coil ever built (the 'Magnifying Transmitter') could generate up to 300,000 watts of power, and produce a bolt of lightning 130 feet long. Tesla actually managed to successfully transmit about 30 to 50 thousand watts of power without wires using the coil.

The part of the Heinlein story that fascinates me is the character who links increased obesity and sedentary natures in children with an increase in radiation in the environment. He wears a lead-lined suit and lives in a lead-lined house, and finds that he is healthier than his peers.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Waldo
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Waldo
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Radiant Power Receptor (DeKalbs)-related news articles:
  - Shape-Shifting Antennas
  - Shape-Changing Metal Antenna
  - Cellphone Harvests Power From Ambient Radio Signals And Light

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