Sunday, 13 May 2012
Futuristic gadgets of the 1930s
‘At exactly noon, the telephone buzzer whirred in Doc Savage's New York skyscraper headquarters. The buzzer whirred three times... Then an automatic answering device, an ingenious arrangement of dictaphone voice recorder and phonographic speaker – a creation of Doc Savage's scientific skill – was cut in automatically... "This is a mechanical robot speaking from Doc Savage's headquarters and advising you that Doc Savage is not present, but that any message you care to speak will be recorded on a dictaphone and will come to Doc Savage's attention later," spoke the mechanical contrivance. "You may proceed with whatever you wish to say, if anything".’
The caller leaves a message, after which ‘The mechanical device in Doc Savage's New York office ran on for some moments, and a stamp clock automatically recorded the exact time of the message on a paper roll; then the apparatus stopped and set itself for another call, should one come.’
Doc Savage’s answering machine isn’t the only high-tech wonder described in this story (called The Secret in the Sky, and written by Lester Dent under the pseudonym of Kenneth Robeson)... it also features a touch-sensitive intruder alarm that works by detecting changes in electrical capacitance, and a superfast air vehicle that is characterized by the sonic boom it creates (actually described in the story as a “crack” rather than a “boom”, by analogy with the crack of a bullet... real-world supersonic aircraft were still more than a decade in the future).