What was the first story to feature the idea that time travel requires a receiver as well as a transmitter?

By "time travel" I mean moving a material body backwards in time; no time viewers, chronoscopes, crystal balls, tachyonic antitelephones, or transtemporal telepathy.

Here are the examples I know of.

2013: "Time Out", a novella by Edward M. Lerner, first published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January–February 2013.

Jonas raised his glass. "A toast: to understanding, at long last. I couldn't have done it without you."

We clinked glassware. "Understanding what?"

"Where the time travelers are."

And I had contributed? "I'm not following. Where are they?"

"Still in the future," Jonas said. He patted the boom box I had salvaged. "You can't recover a radio signal without a radio receiver." Pregnant pause. "It turns out you can't move anything through time without a proper receiver, either."

Anything such as a wristwatch. I was still struggling to wrap my brain around that feat. "And?"

He finished his champagne, poured a generous refill, and topped off my glass. "And so there can't be time travel—not of a person, not of a scrap of paper—without a compatible device to receive the traveler."

1995: "Time Prime", a short story by Geoffrey A. Landis, published in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, February 1995.

"When you energize it, do you really think we can send things back in time?" Gwen commented. She did her best to look dubious.

"Dr. Z snorted. "Of course not. Didn't you read the paper I gave you?" His voice switched over to lecture mode. "Trans-temporal relocation requires both a sending and a receiving coil. Clearly, we could hardly send something back to before a receiver existed. When we energize, we're going to receive from positive t the object we send back next year, when we get the money to built the sending transtemporizer."

1969: "Nine P. M., Pacific Daylight Time", a short story by Ronald S. Bonn, published in Venture Science Fiction, May 1969, available at the Internet Archive.

"I'm saying,” Maxwell Scheinst snapped, "that the failure of a traveler to appear out of time through all of history up to this moment simply proves that, as any dunce might have suspected, travel through time requires a receiver in the era to be visited. Since no receiver has ever been built up to now, obviously no visitor from the future could arrive. Happily, that situation will change tomorrow night."

Johnson jumped slightly in his seat. "Max," he said uncertainly, "Do you mean to say that all this time the government has been, funding you to build a time machine?"

The little man recoiled. "My God, no!" he exclaimed. "All this time, the government has been funding me to develop anti-gravity, which is theoretically possible hut will never be achieved. You couldn't get a penny out of the government for time travel, which is theoretically impossible, but which I shall achieve tomorrow night."

The Mad Scientist beamed at a passing stewardess, then amended, "At least, I shall achieve it in collaboration with whatever genius of the distant future shall manage to build a time transmitter."

  • Insofar as this is an elementary consequence of special relativity, I would expect to see mentions of the idea in the early decades of the twentieth century.
    – Buzz
    Apr 3 at 2:36
  • @Buzz - I admit that my physics studies were some time back, but I don't recall special relativity covering the construction of time machines at all. Could you explain what you mean?
    – Adamant
    Apr 3 at 3:30
  • @Adamant In special relativity, there is no notion of "the same" spatial location at time-separated points. It makes no sense to speak of traveling 400 years into the future and emerging at the same location, since different observers will disagree about where "the sane location" lies. Consequently, a time machine must have structures ("booths" perhaps) at either end, so that the location of the booth can pin down the target space-time point.
    – Buzz
    Apr 3 at 3:36
  • @Buzz - Couldn't that be satisfied by basically anything? "Structure" is pretty broad. I would think that one would not need a special "time machine receiver" to fix a point, and that any spatially limited object or perhaps even massless field would work fine. Like a planet, for instance. If time travel were possible, of course, which is still indeterminate (not to say "doubtful").
    – Adamant
    Apr 3 at 3:42
  • 1
    The question is not whether time travel requires a receiver, which would be off topic here. The question is about the earliest work of fiction to address the real or supposed need for a receiver.
    – user14111
    Apr 3 at 4:27


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