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"In 1977, it took about eight months for a slightly faster more refined mechanism to put punk in the window of Holt Renfrew. It's gotten faster ever since."
- William Gibson

Broomstick  
  Device to ease movement in a zero-gravity environment.  

Very cool early Clarke idea to help humans move around in space.

Commander Doyle had invented them, and the name, of course, came from the old idea that once upon a time witches used to ride on broomsticks. We certainly rode around the station on ours. They consisted of one hollow tube, sliding inside another. The two were connected by a powerful spring, one tube ending in a hook, the other in a wide rubber pad. That was all there was to it. If you wanted to move, you put the pad against the nearest wall and shoved. The recoil launched you into space, and when you arrived at your destination you let the spring absorb your velocity and bring you to rest. Trying to stop yourself with your bare hands was liable to result in sprained wrists.

It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds, though, for if you weren't careful you could bounce right back the way you'd come.

Technovelgy from Islands in the Sky, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Not known in 1952
Additional resources -

This technovelgy item is used again in 2010: Odyssey Two; this is the one that I remember most vividly. The design had evolved somewhat over the years.

It was very simple - a hollow tube just a metre long, with a footpad at one end and a retaining loop at the other. At the touch of a button, it could telescope out to five or six times its normal length, and the internal shock-absorbing system allowed a skilled operator to perform the most amazing manoeuvres. The footpad could also become a claw or hook if necessary; there were many other refinements, but that was the basic design. It looked deceptively easy to use; it wasn't...

Everything happened in about five seconds. Brailovsky triggered his broomstick, so that it telescoped out to its full length of four metres and made contact with the approaching ship. The broomstick started to collapse, its internal spring absorbing Brailovsky's considerable momentum; but it did not, as Curnow had fully expected, bring him to rest beside the antenna mount. It immediately expanded again, reversing the Russian's velocity so that he was, in effect, reflected away from Discovery just as rapidly as he had approached. He flashed past Curnow, heading out into space again, only a few centimetres away. The startled American just had time to glimpse a large grin before Brailovsky shot past him.

A second later, there was a jerk on the line connecting them, and a quick surge of deceleration as they shared momentum. Their opposing velocities had been neatly cancelled; they were virtually at rest with respect to Discovery. Curnow had merely to reach out to the nearest handhold, and drag them both in.

I had totally forgotten about this idea until I found it on Winchell Chung's cool site.

Compare with the Reaction Pistol from Gordon A. Giles 1937 story Diamond Planetoid, the Personal Jet Thrust from Robert Heinlein's 1948 novel Space Cadet and the Electrical Tether from Garrett P. Serviss' 1898 story Edison's Conquest of Mars

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Islands in the Sky
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Islands in the Sky
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

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