I read this story decades ago about a world in which ebooks and cigarette lighters have completely replaced paper books and matches. An inventor is trying to come up with a lighter way to carry reading material (because even the idea of semiconductors was way in the future at the time of writing, ebooks were assumed to be made with vacuum tubes or something) and ends up reinventing the book. Similarly cigarette lighters are unreliable and the inventor comes up with the idea of single-use chemical igniters, so basically matches. Any ideas?

1 Answer 1


This is The Holmes-Ginsbook Device (Isaac Asimov, 1969 in Opus 100) -- in which someone came up with the idea of making reading material more portable (than a computer terminal) by printing out all the pages and fastening them together -- eventually arriving at printing on both sides and binding them in a stack with the name in the title of the story, which came to be commonly called a "'book" by way of shortening in common use.

They were inspired by their professor's Nobel-winning invention of a means of lighting a cigarette without burning your fingers.

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    And there was me thinking that the invention of paper books would make books more readable by everybody, and that the authorities invented the match as a response to that. Oct 17, 2022 at 19:27
  • Any comment about how, contrary to the question, the late 1960s were well after the golden age and it was not true that "the idea of semiconductors was way in the future at the time of writing"?
    – nanoman
    Oct 18, 2022 at 9:59
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    @nanoman Microelectronics as we've known them (in many cases) all our lives were still in the future -- first IC chip was fabbed in 1971, IIRC. Further, one of the articles I found when searching for the pub date suggested this was written as a parody of Francis Crick's The Double Helix which came out in the 1960s.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Oct 18, 2022 at 11:40
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    First microprocessor was in 1971, but simpler ICs were common in the 1960s. Moreover, OP didn't say before ICs, but rather in the era of vacuum tubes before any semiconductor (solid state) electronics. Transistor radios came out in the mid-1950s. Just suggesting to note that OP got the time frame a little wrong -- "golden age" and "vacuum tubes" would point to 1940s, not late 1960s.
    – nanoman
    Oct 18, 2022 at 12:48
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    @nanoman It's not uncommon for one or more details in the question to be incorrect. People's memories aren't perfect. Oct 18, 2022 at 15:32

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