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"I don't know why I write science fiction. The voices in my head told me to!"
- Charles Stross

Nanofax  
  Send a copy of a three-dimensional object to a distant place.  

If you think that this sounds unlikely, you should understand that something like this already exists, and was in use for at least a few years before being described in the novel. It's called stereolithography, and it is used to create a three-dimensional plastic model from a three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) drawing. All you need is your CAD model and

  • A tank full of liquid photopolymer
  • a perforated platform in the tank (which moves up and down)
  • an ultraviolet laser (which solidifies the photopolymer at particular points)
  • and a computer that drives the laser and the platform.
Sound expensive? Read on.

"Nanofax?"

"Everything the name implies," says Klaus, "and considerably less."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nanofax AG offers a technology that digitally reproduces objects, physically, at a distance. Within certain rather large limitations, of course. A child's doll, placed in a Lucky Dragon Nanofax unit in London, will be reproduced in the Lucky Dragon Nanofax unit in New York-"

Technovelgy from All Tomorrow's Parties, by William Gibson.
Published by Putnam in 1999
Additional resources -

Stereolithography (or a nanofax machine) is not likely to show up at your local convenience store anytime soon. The machines cost about $250,000 and the polymer is about $800 per gallon.

Keep in mind, of course, that computers no more powerful than a $5 calculator once cost millions of dollars, and random access memory (RAM) that I once paid $600 for now costs one-half of one cent.

The commentary for dustmice discusses a very small robot that is partly fabricated using stereolithography.

Compare to the idea behind the cosmic express from The Cosmic Express (1930) by Jack Williamson and the plastic constructor from Things Pass By (1945) by Murray Leinster. Also, the Biltong life-forms from Pay for the Printer (1956) by Philip K. Dick are able to "3D print" an object organically. Don't forget the product prescription from The Magellanic Cloud (1955) by Stanislaw Lem.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from All Tomorrow's Parties
  More Ideas and Technology by William Gibson
  Tech news articles related to All Tomorrow's Parties
  Tech news articles related to works by William Gibson

Nanofax-related news articles:
  - Desktop Manufacturing - 3D 'Printouts'
  - Mcor Matrix 3D Paper Printer
  - Zprinter 350 Full-Color 3D Printer
  - MGX 3D Printed Goods Almost Has it
  - Artisanal 3D Printing By Martha Stewart

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Boring Company Bricks Predicted In 1929
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Scaly-Foot Snail Works With Iron

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