Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Murray Leinster (1896-1975) was a nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, a famous American writer of science fiction and alternate history. He wrote and published over 1500 short stories and articles, 14 movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays.
In the March 1946 issue of the American science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction was published Murray Leinster’s short story “A Logic Named Joe”. The story actually appeared under Leinster’s real name, Will F. Jenkins, since that issue of Astounding also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym called “Adapter”. In this story, Leinster made one of the first descriptions of a personal computer (called “logic”) in science fiction. Moreover, in the story, Leinster imaged a global network, connecting logics, a real forerunner of the now ubiquitous Internet.
Leinster envisioned logics in every home, linked through a distributed system of servers (called “tanks”), to provide communications, entertainment, data access, and even commerce. One of his characters says that logics are civilization.
The story’s narrator is a logic maintenance man, working for the Logics Company, nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic named Joe develops some degree of sapience and ambition. Joe proceeds to switch around a few relays in the tank (tank one of a distributed set of central information repositories, something similar to the web servers on the World Wide Web), and cross-correlate all information ever assembled (massive data-mining)—yielding highly unexpected results. Joe then proceeds to freely disseminate all of those results to everyone on demand (and simultaneously disabling all of the content-filtering protocols). Logics everywhere begin offering up unexpected assistance, offering to solve generally all human problems—from designing custom chemicals to alleviate inebriation, to giving sex advice to small children, to plotting the perfect murder. Information runs rampant as every logic worldwide crunches away at problems too vast in scope for human minds to have attempted. Societal chaos quickly ensued, and the situation became critical.
And finally, what Ducky was supposed to do in this situation? Neither more nor less than to save civilization, disconnecting Joe and putting the logic down in the cellar. It was a simple and effective solution, wasn’t it? Sometimes I wish we had a similar solution 😉
The idea of 3D printing also came to Leinster in 1945, when he described the technology with surprising accuracy in his short story “Things Pass By”. He envisioned a machine that could take his drawings and replicate them with a moving arm, using melted plastic to form 3D objects.
A general concept of and procedure to be used in 3D printing was next described by Raymond F. Jones in his story, “Tools of the Trade,” published in the November 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. He referred to it as a “molecular spray” in that story.
In 1971, Johannes F. Gottwald patented the Liquid Metal Recorder (see US pat. Nr. 3596285), a continuous Inkjet metal material device to form a removable metal fabrication on a reusable surface for immediate use or salvaged for printing again by remelting. This appears to be the first patent describing 3D printing with rapid prototyping and controlled on-demand manufacturing of patterns.