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"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Icon Thumbsized Image  
  A very early reference to a screen icon.  

This clear reference to what we call icons or "thumb" images comes very early; do you know an earlier reference?

When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.

Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey , by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Del Rey in 1968
Additional resources -

This reference precedes the 1970 introduction of the Desktop metaphor by Alan Kay at Xerox PARC by several years.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 2001: A Space Odyssey
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to 2001: A Space Odyssey
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

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