"...being predictive, being right about the future, is not the point of any given story or novel. The point is about exploring as wide a range of possibilities as possible."
- Peter Watts
||Remote controlled robots used to perform dangerous work.
Very early description of this idea; the user viewed the work through the "electric eyes" of the robot.
|One day I was running a test on the polonium
that flowed into the repulsion tubes to determine
its quality. Ron, a classmate, approached me. “William will you take my place for a while at the
‘auto’ controls. I have to see Professor Luch personally
for a few moments.”
“All right, Ron.”
“Thanks, a lot.” I went to the control room where the three other men were manipulating their mechanical men, doing
various duties that could not be done very efficiently by automatic levers and relays. I sat before the mirror
that represented the electric eye of the robot, and
by various levers moved “No. 7” to take a look at the temperature of the electric furnace for repulsion tube No. 3. Everything was functioning perfectly. I continued
to do routine work relative to the operation of
the repulsion tube...
As my robot straightened up from depositing some
huge balance weights on the floor, I saw with horror
that a polonium tube leading to the great discharger had snapped, pouring the precious Martian metal on
the floor. Immediately, the dial on the wall above me
showed that the great disk had already taken on a
list, and was beginning to descend slightly. “Increase your voltage and polonium flow, men,
I’m shutting my discharger off. Polonium tube snapped !”
Knowing full well that the other repulsors could not
stand the added strain indefinitely, I set No. 7 to work swiftly to close off the voltage and metal flow, and replace the broken tube. Conversation ceased;
the others turning grim faces to their work, and working
rapidly and surely. The list was corrected but
still the disk continued to descend. With my heart pounding in my ears, it seemed an eternity to cut out
the tube. Yet, it was delicate work and had to be done with extreme care. Even in this crucial moment
I marveled at the delicacy with which the automaton
handled the tube under my control. I watched metal hands carefully place the tube in its section. As soon
as it was safe, the polonium began to flow again, and
the discharger was turned on. Slowly, the instruments
indicated that the descent of the disk was checked, and
that it began to assume a normal elevation again after having fallen a thousand feet.
|From The Ancient Brain,
by A.G. Stangland.
Published by Science Wonder Stories in 1929
Additional resources -
Compare to the waldo from Waldo (1940) by Robert Heinlein. It is of particular interest to note that Heinlein's idea was the impetus for the development of similar devices used in the nuclear power industry - they were even called "waldoes".
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