I think I read this in the 1980s or possibly 1990s (pre-1995): a short novel (SF, but not rigorous "hard" SF, if I recall correctly), and I know this wasn't the main thing, but it's what sticks with me:

The characters had a Memory Creature of some sort (I want to say "memory potto" like hippopotamus, but that would be silly as hippos are huge, and I think these were shoulder-mounted?)

I think they were to offload part of the human brain's "processing" so they could do other types of thinking, then use the Memory Thing to flesh out details? Like having a rough idea, then checking Wikipedia to confirm dates and details.

Using it was as casual as we'd now say that we copied a file onto the work shared drive (but I think these were solo, not collaborative creatures). I don't recall if using the memory thing removed the details from the original mind, or if it meant that like the current "Google Effect," people don't need to try to remember things, since they can always look them up.

(Alas, trying to DuckDuckGo this only finds things about "potatoes")

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    Was this novel more sci-fi or fantasy? Did the memory creature use magic or was it using a neural link to communicate? – Harabeck Oct 23 '19 at 21:44
  • Were the creatures generically modified for the purpose and did the book have an animal rights slant? – gormadoc Oct 23 '19 at 23:47
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    @Harabeck , I think it was lightly SF -- I remember something like an Intergallactic Train. And I don't remember if it was a neural link or a coevolution (humans & dogs) or a natural externalization (like the Daimons in Pullman's His Dark Materials) -- There was some procedure, because I think the POV character could opt for one? – April Salutes Monica C. Oct 24 '19 at 13:21
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    @gormadoc , I don't think there was an animal rights element -- this was just a small incidental part of the book. Possibly genetically modified, or as I mentioned in my comment to Harabeck, there were other explanations that feel as likely. – April Salutes Monica C. Oct 24 '19 at 13:24
  • It is NOT this, despite my thinking of an interstellar train was maybe connected: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_on_the_Galactic_Railroad – April Salutes Monica C. Oct 24 '19 at 13:28

The Celestial Steam Locomotive by Michael G. Coney.

The Celestial Steam Locomotive

I can't find my copy of the book, but memory pottos are mentioned in the second book in the series, Gods of the Greataway, so I'd guess they are in the first book as well. They are not hippopotamuses but pottos - cute furry creatures ideally sized to sit on your shoulder and remember things for you:

Selena was carrying a memory potto on her shoulder, and the site of it saddened Zozula, reminding him that the Cuidadors were getting older and having to rely on more and more artificial devices to carry out their jobs. The little primate stared at him with its huge eyes, seeing everything, hearing everything, remembering everything. It was telepathic too, and whenever it sensed the Selena was groping to recall some fact or incident from the past it would feed the memory to her as if it were her own. Selena was rarely without her memory potto these days.

  • Thank you! It has a space word and a train word. I didn't know it was part of the series, but I'll definitely look it up and re-read! – April Salutes Monica C. Oct 24 '19 at 15:54
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    It was pre-Wikipedia, so I know I didn't look up "potto" -- knowing they are primates that smell like curry is even better than mini hippos! As long as they don't need to urine-mark their human. – April Salutes Monica C. Oct 24 '19 at 15:57

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