Latest By

Artificial Intelligence
Data Storage
Input Devices
Living Space
Space Tech
Virtual Person

"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven

Steel Tortoise  
  An all-terrain vehicle, grandfather to the four-wheeler.  

I like the term and the device. It is interesting to note how it is designed to be essentially free of any additional stuff - doesn't need gas, doesn't need maintenance, doesn't have parts designed to be replaceable like tires, and so forth.

He turned and commenced loading his steel tortoise. Under the romantic influence of the classic literature of a bygone day he had considered using a string of burros, but had been unable to find a zoo that would sell them to him...

The vehicle he had chosen was not an unreasonable substitute for burros. It was extremely rugged, easy to operate, and almost foolproof. It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof. These drove a constant- load motor, or, when halted, replenished the storage battery against cloudy weather, or night travel. The bearings were 'everlasting', and every moving part, other than the caterpillar treads and the controls, were sealed up, secure from inexpert tinkering.

It could maintain a steady six miles per hour on smooth, level pavement. When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.

The steel tortoise gave MacKinnon a feeling of Crusoe- like independence.

From Coventry, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Not Known in 1940
Additional resources -

I really think there is a future for a device like this. If you are exploring or trekking, you don't really care how fast you're going. The fact that you are completely free of filling stations gives a remarkable dimension to the vehicle.

On the other hand, you might want to check the entry for sunpower screen. With today's technology, this baby might have more power than you think - a tortoise that could beat the hare fair and square.

For an alternative power source on a similar vehicle, be sure to check out the power-wagon, a creation of Jack Vance in The Last Castle.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

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

Steel Tortoise-related news articles:
  - Cool Robots At Dartmouth (And Greenland)
  - Who First Thought About Solar Powered Cars?
  - REX Infantry Robotic Porter Follows Soldiers
  - UM Solar Car Now Also With IBM Research Power

Articles related to Vehicle
Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
Hackers Can Take Control Of Cars From Anywhere In The World
Would Robot Taxis Ease Carbon Emissions?
Autonomous Cars: Who Is Responsible For Driving?

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.





Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.





More News

Harvard's Robobees Now 'Fly' Underwater
'...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner.'

ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...'

Ultralight Origami Crane UAV Flexes Its Wings
'They began to flex their wings.'

UM Solar Car Now Also With IBM Research Power
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

Robot-Based Trash Collection
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there...'

Warrior Web Exoskeleton For Soldiers Undergo Tests
'The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it...'

Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
'It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway.'

Light Molecules (And Maybe Light Sabers, Someday)
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'

Telepresence In The Office
'That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely... under direct control.'

Piper, Google's 2 Billion Line Code Repository, Needs A Cool Display
'The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall...'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.