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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Waldo  
  A telefactoring device; also known as the Waldo F. Jones Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph.  

This story has been largely forgotten (even though it still makes great reading). The notion of a waldo, however, has not. The word itself has come into common usage; the American Heritage Dictionary describes it as follows: "A mechanical agent, such as a gripper arm, controlled by a human limb." Real-life waldoes were developed for the nuclear industry during WWII; they were named after the invention described by Heinlein.

This technology is known today by the more generic term "telefactoring"; it is used in a variety of industries.

Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him; all three pairs, including the secondary pair before the machine, came to life. Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.
From Waldo, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1942
Additional resources -

Heinlein shows his creativity by giving his character a problem (myasthenia gravis - degenerative muscle weakness) and then literally giving him the tool to solve it. You'll also enjoy his laboratory (in orbit, of course, to give Waldo maximum mobility).

A pantograph is a device with a simple physical connection between a pointer and a drawing pen on a piece of paper. Altering the linkage between the pointer and the pen alters the scale of the drawing. The pantograph dates from 1630. Thomas Jefferson liked them; he built one into Monticello.

In Oath of Fealty, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, telefactor operators who all live in the same arcology assist in a variety of tasks around the globe (and on the moon). At one point, they go on strike; a case of acting locally and globally.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Waldo
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Waldo
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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  - Robonaut Performs Hubble Space Telescope Repair Tasks
  - Robonaut Centaur At NextFest 2006
  - Heinlein's Giant Waldo Comes To Life
  - Mediseus Surgical Drilling Simuator Remote Haptic Tutor
  - Be Master To Robot Slave
  - RAPUD Robotic Arm Helps Disabled Reach
  - Giant Robotic Hand Video
  - WIND Wearable Robot Controller
  - PossessedHand Borgs Your Hands To Teach You
  - Raytheon Sarcos Exoskeletonized Ditch Witch
  - Festo ExoHand Fine Motor Skill Robotic Hand
  - Calligraphy Robot Preserves An Ancient Skill
  - CAPIO Exoskeleton Controls AILA Robot

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