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"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it."
- Robert Heinlein

Message Tree  
  A tree growing out of a huge cliff of crystal provides communication for a world.  

The message tree is a remarkable and creative idea, particularly in the context of the novel. The planet Lithia has virtually no naturally occurring metals on the surface and electrical power is extremely difficult to generate; how can you recreate electronic communications equipment? The answer lies in the piezoelectric effect.

If the night were to turn out to be especially windy, there would doubtless be many voices coming and going to the Message Tree. It loomed ahead of him now, a Sequoialike giant...

As the winds came and went... the tree nodded and swayed. With every movement, the tree's root system ... tugged and distorted the buried crystalline cliff upon which the city had been founded. At every such pressure, the buried cliff responded with a vast heart-pulse of radio waves - a pulse detectable not only all over Lithia, but far out into space as well.

From A Case of Conscience, by James Blish.
Published by Del Rey in 1958
Additional resources -

This sort of message device also lent itself well to the story; the world of Lithia was one in which the biosphere was seen as important by the indigenous sapient life.

The piezoelectric effect was discovered by one of more of the Curies around 1880; it is the voltage produced between surfaces of a solid nonconducting substance (dielectric) when mechanical stress is applied.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Case of Conscience
  More Ideas and Technology by James Blish
  Tech news articles related to A Case of Conscience
  Tech news articles related to works by James Blish

Message Tree-related news articles:
  - Tweeting Tree Like Blish's Message Tree

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