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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Personal Force-Shield  
  A portable force-shield small enough to be carried by a single man.  

In this excerpt, Hober Mallow, Foundation Trader, talks with patrician Onum Barr.

"Listen!" There was a feverish edge to the old man's voice. "I knew you when you entered. You have a force-shield about your body, or had when I first saw you."

Doubtful silence, then, "Yes, –I had."

"Good. That was a flaw, but you didn't know that. There are some things I know. It's out of fashion in these decaying times to be a scholar. Events race and flash past and who cannot fight the tide with nuclear-blast in hand is swept away, as I was. But I was a scholar, and I know that in all the history of nucleics, no portable force-shield was ever invented. We have force-shields – huge, lumbering powerhouses that will protect a city, or even a ship, but not one, single man."

"Ah?" Mallow's underlip thrust out. "And what do you deduce from that?"

"There have been stories percolating through space. They travel strange paths and become distorted with every parsec, –but when I was young there was a small ship of strange men, who did not know our customs and could not tell where they came from. They talked of magicians at the edge of the Galaxy; magicians who glowed in the darkness, who flew unaided through the air, and whom weapons would not touch.

From Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

This is a very early reference to this idea, but it is not the first. Consider the personal protective-shield from Triplanetary, written by E.E. "Doc" Smith in 1948.

Compare to the shield from Skylark Three (1930) by EE 'Doc' Smith, the Langston field from The Mote in God's Eye (1974) by Niven and Pournelle and the deflector shield from Star Wars (1976) by George Lucas.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Foundation
  More Ideas and Technology by Isaac Asimov
  Tech news articles related to Foundation
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