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"Real science opens windows for us to look through. We're right at the footsteps of the most interesting scientists around."
- Larry Niven

Knockdown Cabin  
  A portable shelter; had solid walls and could be assembled quickly.  

Portable shelters (rather than tents) had been used for at least a short time by the military. The British Nissen hut, was a semi cylindrical steel hut, named for it's designer Captain Nissen.

His goods filled every compartment of the compact little freighter. He checked the last item from his inventory and ran a satisfied eye down the list. Any explorer or adventurer of the past might well be pleased with such equipment, he thought. He could imagine showing Jack London his knockdown cabin. See, Jack, he would say, it's proof against any kind of weather- perfectly insulated walls and floor- and can't rust. It's so light that you can set it up in five minutes by yourself, yet it's so strong that you can sleep sound with the biggest grizzly in the world snuffling right outside your door. And London would scratch his head, and say, Dave, you're a wonder. If I'd had that in the Yukon, it would have been a cinch!
From Coventry, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1940
Additional resources -

In March, 1941 the navy requested the George A. Fuller Co. to make a prefabricated, "knockdown shelter" to be built in the United States. The intent was that these multipurpose shelters could be shipped to distant bases, there to be assembled by troops in the field.

The contractor decided the Nissen hut was too complicated. Their first design was created at their Quonset Point, Rhode Island facility; it was a half-cylinder made of corrugated steel with arch ribs. It was insulated, had a pressed-wood interior; it could be put up on concrete, on pilings, or on the ground. The wood ends had a door and two windows. The first units were 16 by 36 feet but soon they made them in 20 x 40 foot and 20 x 56 foot models.

The army ordered 16,000 of them after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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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

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