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"SF looks towards an imaginary future, while fantasy, by and large, looks towards an imaginary past."
- Frederik Pohl

Eavesdropping Ray  
  A device that allows others to hear from outside ordinary locked rooms.  

This is a very early reference to the concept of a device or technology that could penetrate a locked room to hear conversations within the room.

Captain Carter added abruptly, "We're insulated here, Halsey?"

"Yes. Talk as freely as you like. An eavesdropping ray will never get through to us."

"...Look here, lads, this is my chance to talk plainly to you. Outside, anywhere outside these walls, an eavesdropping ray may be upon us. You know that? One may never even dare to whisper since that accursed ray was developed."

From Brigands of the Moon, by Ray Cummings.
Published by Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1930
Additional resources -

Here's another quote from the story about using the device:

I set my tiny eavesdropper on the library floor beside me; connected its little battery; focused its projector. Was Miko's room insulated? I could not tell...

I threw the current into my apparatus. I prayed, if it met interference, that the slight sound would pass unnoticed. George Prince had said that he would make opportunity to disconnect the room's insulation. He had evidently done so. I picked up the interior sounds at once; my headphone vibrated with them. And with trembling fingers on the little dial between my knees as I crouched in the darkness behind the cylinder case, I synchronized.

Ray Cummings described eavesdropping rays this way in Voyage 13 (1938):

I realized the existence of a low hum — the tiny, microphonic, grinding hum of electronic interference.

An eavesdropping ray! You can hear them sometimes, when you are close to a metal obstruction through which they are passing. An eavesdropping ray from some near-by point was focused upon Normah’s door. It was picking up the murmur of the three voices and humming a little with the door’s interference.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Brigands of the Moon
  More Ideas and Technology by Ray Cummings
  Tech news articles related to Brigands of the Moon
  Tech news articles related to works by Ray Cummings

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