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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Reading Machine  
  A projector which showed text on a screen or the ceiling for easy reading.  

I really like this device, for various reasons. First, it projects the words on the ceiling, which is a spectacularly good idea and would have saved me many a sore neck from reading too long in bed.

She decided that she might as well go to bed. One wall was filled with books; she found a spool of Kipling's Just So Stories and took it happily upstairs.

The bed in her room was as modern as next week, with automassage, coffee dispenser, weather control, reading machine, etc. Jill decided that she would probably not oversleep, crawled into bed, slid the spool into the reading machine, lay back and scanned the words streaming across the ceiling. Presently the speed control slipped out of her relaxed fingers, the lights went out and she slept.

Technovelgy from Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Putnam in 1961
Additional resources -

I also like the fact that the lights would automatically go out when you fell asleep (I not infrequently find my son in bed, with the lights on, and a book nearby).

The most intriguing idea to me is that this is a device for convenient reading; it is not a device that reads aloud to the user. The only similar products today are used as assistive reading devices for people with vision problems. I'll bet if they used the ceiling, there would be fewer people with vision problems and neck aches.

In Arthur Radebaugh's popular newspaper comic “Closer Than We Think" we find an "electronic library" which seems to be what Heinlein has in mind here.


(Arthur Radebaugh's "electronic library")

Some unusual inventions for home entertainment and education will be yours in the future, such as the "television recorder" that RCA's David Sarnoff described recently.

With this device, when a worthwhile program comes over the air while you are away from home, or even while you're watching it, you'll be able to preserve both the picture and sound on tape for replaying at any time. Westinghouse's Gwilym Price expects such tapes to reproduce shows in three dimensions and color on screens as shallow as a picture.

Another pushbutton development will be projection of microfilm books on the ceiling or wall in large type. To increase their impact on students, an electronic voice may accompany the visual passages.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Stranger in a Strange Land
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Stranger in a Strange Land
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Reading Machine-related news articles:
  - Lucent DVR Sleep Detector
  - Book Time Page-Turning Robot
  - Netflix Smart Socks Know When You Doze Off

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