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"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge

Electronic Spy  
  An autonomous device that kept itself hidden while keeping track of an individual's activity.  

This is an early reference to this kind of device, and is particularly detailed.

As if the whisper of the chair sliding on the carpeting might have been a signal, a scurrying sound came out of one darkened corner and traveled to the next and then was still...

There was something in the corner by the yellow chair and although it seemed to have no eyes, he knew it was watching him. It didn't know that he had spotted it, or it didn't seem to know, although in the next instant it more than likely would.

His right arm swung up and over and followed through and the paperweight, turning end over end, crashed into the corner.

There was a crunching sound and the noise of metallic parts rolling on the floor.

There were many little tubes, smashed, and an intricate mass of wiring that was bent and broken, and crystal disks that were chipped and splintered, and the metallic outer shell that had held the tubes and wiring and the disks and the many other pieces of mechanical mystery that he did not recognize...

No mouse, but something else - something that scuttled in the night, knowing that he would think it was a mouse... a thing that had scared the cat which knew it was no mouse, and a thing that would not be attracted to traps.

An electronic spy, he speculated, a scuttling, scurrying, listening device that watched his every moment, that stored what it heard and saw for future reference or transmitted directly the knowledge that it gained. But direct to whom? If it were a spying device, it would be made so well, so cleverly that it would be able not only to observe him but to keep out of sight itself. To have any value, it must keep its presence undetected. There would be no careless moment.

From Ring Around the Sun, by Clifford Simak.
Published by Galaxy Science Fiction in 1952
Additional resources -

Compare to the robot tracking device from Philip K. Dick's 1960 novel Vulcan's Hammer, the scarab robot flying insect from Raymond Z. Gallun's 1936 story The Scarab and the mechanical mice from Eric Frank Russel's chilling 1941 short story The Mechanical Mice.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ring Around the Sun
  More Ideas and Technology by Clifford Simak
  Tech news articles related to Ring Around the Sun
  Tech news articles related to works by Clifford Simak

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