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1942 __ « Waldo »
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)
Comment : As for telepresence, the coupling of robotics and telematics, we must look at Robert Heinlein's short novel "Waldo," written in the 1940s, to locate the fictional origin of the concept. He tells the tale of Waldo F. Jones, a genius who suffered from a disabling disease and who built for himself a zero-gravity home in orbit around Earth. Using his impotent muscles without the constraints of gravity he developed hardware ("waldoes") that allowed him to perform teleoperations on Earth. He built waldoes with robotic hands of different sizes, from half an inch to several feet across their palms, which responded to the command of his arms and fingers. One of the most interesting subplots of the story involves what amounts to broadcast power, with cars and appliances no longer in need of engines or wired connections to power sources, respectively. Heinlein didn't invent the idea of 'radiant power' (that is, wireless transmission of power), but he uses it to great effect in the story.Waldo (1942) is a short story by Robert A. Heinlein originally published in Astounding Magazine in August 1942 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald. Waldo Farthingwaite-Jones was born a weakling, unable even to lift his head up to drink or to hold a spoon. Far from destroying him, this channeled his intellect, and his family's money, into the development of the device patented as "Waldo F. Jones' Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph". Wearing a glove and harness, Waldo could control a much more powerful mechanical hand simply by moving his hand and fingers. This and other technologies he develops make him a rich man, rich enough to build a home in space. In the story, these devices became popularly known as "waldoes"; after the story was published, remote manipulators of this type were developed in real life, and were often also nicknamed "waldoes" in reference to the story. A typical illustration of the tools in the story is Waldo's handling of his need to perform micro-dissection on the scale of cellular walls. He uses human-sized waldoes to make smaller waldos, then uses those to make even smaller waldoes, and continues the series until he has waldoes small enough to work at the cellular scale. There are three main factors involved in Heinlein's description of the tools: (1) They work like human hands: not with a single active lever or twenty different tools, but with components arranged and with actions like human hands. The operator puts his or her hands in "gloves" and the waldos repeat the movements of the hands; (2) They work in conjunction with viewing equipment that lets the user see the waldos as if they have the size and action of their own hands. This, in conjunction with the first factor, means that waldos are a "no-training" tool: if you know how to use your hands, you can use waldos; (3) They allow work to be done remotely, in the next room or many miles away, or in an environment that could kill a human or be contaminated by human presence. They can be a different size from normal human hands: either huge for building construction or tiny for micro-manipulation. (Compiled from various sources)
Original excerpt : « The same change in circuits which brought another size of waldoes under control automatically accomplished the change in sweep of scanning to increase or decrease the magnification so that Waldo always saw before him in his stereo receiver a "life-size" image of his other hands. [...] Such an invention was no trouble at all to him; he had simply adapted manipulating devices which he himself used in combating the overpowering weight of one gravity. The first successful and safe rocket ship contained relays which had once aided Waldo in moving himself from bed to wheelchair. The deceleration tanks, which are now standard equipment for the lunar mail ships, traced their parentage to a flotation tank in which Waldo habitually had eaten and slept up to the time when he left the home of his parents for his present, somewhat unique home. Most of his basic inventions had originally been conceived for his personal convenience, and only later adapted for commercial exploitation. Even the ubiquitous and grotesquely humanoid gadgets known universally as 'waldoes' - Waldo F. Jones's Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph, Pat #296,001,437, new series, et al - passed through several generations of development and private use in Waldo's machine shop before he redesigned them for mass production. The first of them, a primitive gadget compared with the waldoes now to be found in every shop, factory, plant, and warehouse in the country, had been designed to enable Waldo to operate a metal lathe. [...] Near the man, mounted on the usual stand, were a pair of primary waldoes, elbow length and human digited. They were floating on the line, in parallel with a similar pair physically in front of Waldo. The secondary waldoes, whose actions could be controlled by Waldo himself by means of his primaries, were mounted in front of the power tool in the position of the operator. Waldo's remark had referred to the primaries near the workman. The machinist glanced at them, but made no move to insert his arms in them. 'I don't take no orders from nobody I can't see,' he said flatly. He looked sideways out of the scene as he spoke. 'Now, Jenkins,' commenced one of the two men in the smaller screen. Waldo sighed. 'I really haven't the time or the inclination to solve your problems of shop discipline. Gentlemen, please turn your pickup, so that our petulant friend may see me.' The change was accomplished; the workman's face appeared in the background of the smaller of Waldo's screens, as well as in the larger. 'There - is that better?' Waldo said gently. The workman grunted. 'Now.. . your name, please?' 'Alexander Jenkins.' 'Very well, friend Alec - the gloves.' Jenkins thrust his arms into the waldoes and waited. Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him; all three pairs, including the secondary pair mounted before the machine, came to life. Jenkins bit his lip, as if he found unpleasant the sensation of having his fingers manipulated by the gauntlets he wore.Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism. 'Feel it, my dear Alec,' Waldo advised. 'Gently, gently the sensitive touch. Make your muscles work for you.' He then started hand movements of definite pattern; the waldoes at the power tool reached up, switched on the power, and began gently, gracefully, to continue the machining of the casting. A mechanical hand reached down, adjusting a vernier, while the other increased the flow of oil cooling the cutting edge. 'Rhythm, Alec, rhythm. No jerkiness, no unnecessary movement. Try to get in time with me.' The casting took shape with deceptive rapidity, disclosed what it was - the bonnet piece for an ordinary three-way nurse. The chucks drew back from it; it dropped to the belt beneath, and another rough casting took its place. Waldo continued with unhurried skill, his finger motions within his waldoes exerting pressure which would need to be measured in fractions of ounces, but the two sets of waldoes, paralleled to him thousands of miles below, followed his motions accurately and with force appropriate to heavy work at hand. Another casting landed on the belt - several more. Jenkins, although not called upon to do any work in his proper person, tired under the strain of attempting to anticipate and match Waldo's motions. Sweat dripped down his forehead, ran off his nose, accumulated on his chin. Between castings he suddenly withdrew his arms from the paralleled primaries. 'That's enough,' he announced. 'One more, Alec. You are improving.' 'No!' He turned as if to walk off. Waldo made a sudden movement - so sudden as to strain him, even in his weight-free environment. One steel hand of the secondary waldoes lashed out, grasped Jenkins by the wrist. 'Not so fast, Alec.' 'Let go of me!' 'Softly, Alec, softly. You'll do as you are told, won't you?' The steel hand clamped down hard, twisted. Waldo had exerted all of two ounces of pressure. Jenkins grunted. The one remaining spectator - one had left soon after the lesson started - said, 'Oh, I say, Mr Jones!' 'Let him obey, or fire him. You know the terms of my contract.' There was a sudden cessation of stereo and sound, cut from the Earth end. It came back on a few seconds later. Jenkins was surly, but no longer recalcitrant. Waldo continued as if nothing had happened. 'Once more, my dear Alec.' When the repetition had been completed, Waldo directed, 'Twenty times, wearing the wrist and elbow lights with the chronanalyser in the picture. I shall expect the superposed strips to match, Alec.' He cut off the larger screen without further words and turned to the watcher in the smaller screen. 'Same time tomorrow, McNye. Progress is satisfactory. In time we'll turn this madhouse of yours into a modern plant.' He cleared that screen without saying goodbye. »
Source : Heinlein, Robert (1942), “Waldo”, In Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1942, John W. Campbell, Jr., Street & Smith Publications, Inc..
Urls : http://veeshanvault.org/shared/morebooks/Heinlein,%20Robert/Waldo.rtf (last visited )

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