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"The SF approach: an awareness that things could have been different, that this is one of many possible worlds, that if you came to this world from some other planet, this would be a science fiction world."
- Neal Stephenson

Cardioplate  
  A device that could take seconds or minutes off your life, one beat at a time (or all at once).  

If you are caught late in this future society, you must answer to the Master Timekeeper - or as everyone calls him, the Ticktockman.

EFFECTIVE 15 JULY 2389, 12:00:00 midnight, the office of the Master Timekeeper will require that all citizens to submit their time-cards and cardioplates for processing. In accordance with Statute 555-7-SGH-999 governing the revocation of time per capita, all cardioplates will be keyed to the individual holder and -

What they had done was to devise a method of curtailing the amount of life a person could have. If he was ten minutes late, he lost ten minutes of his life.

From 'Repent Harlequin' Said the Ticktockman, by Harlan Ellison.
Published by Galaxy Magazine in 1965
Additional resources -

Worse yet, if you were found to be consistently tardy, you might be told that as of a particular date and time, you would be turned off.

This idea precedes that of the palm flower from the 1967 novel Logan's Run by William Nolan and G.C. Johnson.

15-Sep-2011: Harlan Ellison is suing the makers of the fall film In Time for plagiarism. The film uses a similar idea; a measurement of life time remaining on the forearm.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 'Repent Harlequin' Said the Ticktockman
  More Ideas and Technology by Harlan Ellison
  Tech news articles related to 'Repent Harlequin' Said the Ticktockman
  Tech news articles related to works by Harlan Ellison

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