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"the [science fiction] writer should be able to convince the reader (and himself) that the wonders he is describing really can come true...and that gets tricky when you take a good, hard look at the world around you."
- Frederik Pohl

Fenton Silencer  
  A device to cancel noise over a broad area.  

In this amusing story from Tales from the White Hart, one of the patrons of the pub tells the story of young Robert Fenton, who was stronger on practice than on theory - unfortunately.

"Doubtless some of you will already see what I am driving at, and will appreciate the basic principle of the Fenton silencer...

It consisted of a microphone, a special amplifier and a pair of loud speakers. Any sound that happened to be about was picked up by the mike, amplified and inverted so it was exactly out of phase with the original noise. Then it was pumped out of the speakers, the original wave and the new one cancelled out, and the net result was silence.

Of course, there was rather more to it than that. [But]... it's a simple application of negative feedback.

From Tales from the White Hart, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Ballantine Books in 1957
Additional resources -

This is from Silence Please, the first story in this book of short stories, first published in 1957.

This story offers good engineering detail on noise cancellation; however, I think that Robert Heinlein's hush corner beats the Fenton Silencer by a nose, having been published in Double Star in 1956. Also, see the isolation barrage from Wandl, The Invader (1939) by Ray Cummings.

Thanks to Paul, who wrote in about this story in a comment on another technovelgy item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Tales from the White Hart
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Tales from the White Hart
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Fenton Silencer-related news articles:
  - Noise-Cancelling Windows With Piezoelectric Patches
  - Speechjammer To End Your 1st Amendment Rights

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