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"The world is really so surreal these days that it's necessary for us to blunt it somehow in order to stay sane. The artist functions to short-circuit the buffering mechanism, so that people can occasionally perceive the weirdness of things as they are."
- William Gibson

Universal Dictionary  
  A machine that provided references to anything known.  

Whenever Mr. Kiku wanted to know something, he'd just check the universal dictionary terminal on his desk.

The universal dictionary in the British Museum was not more knowledgeable than the one in the Under Secretary's office; its working parts occupied an entire building in another part of the Capital, and its staff of cyberneticists, semanticians and encyclopedists endlessly fed its hunger for facts.
From The Star Beast, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1954
Additional resources -

This entry gives a very clear picture of what a massive computer installation looked like in the 1950's; it was very large and required a large staff to keep it running. Here's an example of a mid-1950's computer - the IBM 704:

The IBM 704 was considered the world's first super-computer and the first machine to incorporate floating-point hardware. The 704 used magnetic core memory that was faster and more reliable than the magnetic drum storage found in the 701.

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

Universal Dictionary-related news articles:
  - Encyclopedia Googleactica - Google To Put All Human Knowledge Online
  - WolframAlpha Is Not A Search Engine

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