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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

The Twonky  
  A robotic device from the future, constructed to look like a 1940's radio cabinet.  

The radio's back was toward him. Several limber tentacles were manipulating the dishes, expertly sousing them in hot, soapy water, scrubbing them with the little mop, dipping them into the rinse water, and then stacking them neatly in the metal rack. Those whip-lashes were the only sign of unusual activity...


('The Twonky' by Lewis Padgett)

He sidled around till he could examine the radio more closely. The tentacles emerged from a slot under one of the dials. The electric cord was dangling. No juice, then. But what— Kerry stepped back and fumbled out a cigarette. Instantly the radio turned, took a match from its container on the stove, and walked forward. Kerry blinked, studying the legs. They couldn’t be wood. They were bending as the . . . the thing moved, elastic as rubber. The radio had a peculiar sidling motion unlike anything else on earth.

It lit Kerry’s cigarette and went back to the sink, where it resumed the dishwashing...

"The old one was complicated enough," Martha said, in a baffled manner. "Gadgets. They confuse me. I was brought up on an Edison. You wound it up with a crank, and strange noises came out of a horn. That I could understand. But now—you push a button, and extraordinary things happen. Electric eyes, tone selections, records that get played on both sides, to the accompaniment of weird groanings and clickings from inside the console—probably you understand those things. I don’t even want to. Whenever I play a Crosby record in a superdooper like that, Bing seems embarrassed."

Technovelgy from The Twonky, by Lewis Padgett.
Published by Street and Smith in 1942
Additional resources -

The story includes some interesting speculation on the mechanism that might create intelligence in a robot:

Your brain's a colloid, you know. Compact, complicated - but slow. Suppose you work out a gadget with a multimillion radioatom unit embedded in an insulating material - the result is a brain... A brain with a tremendous number of units interacting at light-velocity speeds. A radio tube adjusts current flow when it's operating at forty million separate signals a second. And - theoretically - a radioatomic brain of the type I've mentioned could include perception, recognition, consideration, reaction and adjustment in a hundred-thousandth of a second."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Twonky
  More Ideas and Technology by Lewis Padgett
  Tech news articles related to The Twonky
  Tech news articles related to works by Lewis Padgett

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