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"Science fiction has gotten more accurate as we've gotten closer to the present, because science fiction stories have not only attracted, but also generated current scientists."
- Larry Niven

Time Dredge  
  A device that scoops up material from the past, and returns it to the present.  

Koch plugged into a wall socket an electric cord running to a heater coil on the tray of instruments. Then he mounted the platform over the pit, threw a switch that caused a deep-green streak to leap to life in the blue cone of radiance pouring down into the excavation, and began to adjust vernier dials carefully. He moved the small knobs delicately for minutes, sweat pouring down his face in his concentration, then relaxed, looking pleased.

“An animal is in the field,” he remarked, turning and looking down at them. “A sacrifice, it is probable. Draw up your chairs, gentlemen. Professor Koch, his show is about to begin. The mad scientist, he will now demonstrate his folly by delving into the dead past in a manner unique. He will bring forth relics and life—life ! —from the past, not with a pick and shovel, but with a dredge. A dredge to probe time.”

“You are aware, gentlemen,” Koch went on, deliberately adopting the air of the lecturer to nonetoo-bright students, “of the concept of simultaneous existence of time, past, present, and future? Then you will not doubt me when I say that every object which has ever occupied this space beneath me is still there, in the past..."

Technovelgy from Time Dredge, by Robert Arthur.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1942
Additional resources -

Philip K. Dick also makes use of this idea in his 1960 story Dr. Futurity:

...on the far side of the room, satin covers on the wide bed. Lush wine-colored drapes. Thick multi-colored carpet which he knew at once had been pilfered from the Middle Eastern past. Someone had used the time dredge to its best advantage, furnishing the apartment in excellent taste.

Parsons has moved forward in time; his hosts do their best to see to his comfort.

"What about a beer?" Helmar said. "We have several beers from your period, all ice cold."

"This is fine," Parsons said...

Loris, seating herself opposite, said, "And we've brought magazines forward. And clothing. And a variety of objects, some of which we can't identify. Chance plays quite a role, as you might guess. The time dredge scoops up more than three tons; we often get mere debris, however, especially in the earlier stages."

The phrase is of course based on the word "dredge," which refers to an excavation device used to scrape a seabed or river bed, usually to keep waterways navigable. It can also be used with the specific purpose of obtaining material, which can be used for land reclamation. Dredging has also played an important role in gold mining.

Perhaps the earliest use of this general idea can be found in a 1939 story by Edmond Hamilton published in Startling Stories:


('The Space Visitors' by Edmond Hamilton)

Dick uses this idea in his 1954 short story The Meddler; he calls it the Dip. See also the time scoop from Dick's 1953 story Paycheck.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Time Dredge
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Arthur
  Tech news articles related to Time Dredge
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Arthur

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