A humorous science fictional short story by Arthur C. Clarke. First published in Amateur Science Fiction Stories in December 1937, and collected in The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-1955, and, of course, The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke. It was Clarke’s first published story. Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter wrote a sequel in 1997 called The Wire Continuum
The trials, tribulations and ensuing hi-jinx of building and selling a teleporter that transmits matter over telephone lines.
Having solved the problem of teleporting matter (strangely enough, he never goes into detail about how this works), the scientists must increase the resolution of the “delta scanners” that “read” the object at Location A so that it can be transmitted to Location B. Currently objects arrive as millions of tiny spheres. This is achieved by scanning the object from six sides simultaneously. The physicists pilfer a guinea pig from the Biology Lab on the 37th floor as a test subject. The guinea pig arrives intact, but dead. The biologists refuse to perform a post-mortem on the animal, and brief war of retaliation ensues. The tale of a previous skirmish with the Chemistry Department is recounted.
The test subject is discovered to have died of shock, so the next test subject is sent under the effect of chloroform. It survives, only to be stuffed. Another guinea pig is sent, fully conscious, and survives because the scanning time has been reduced to a fraction of a second. Finally a professor from the Languages Department (floor 197) is lured into the transmitter, which has been baited with a copy of Homer. He survives.
The inventors deem the device to be a success, so they reveal it to the press and start up a “Travel by Wire” passenger service. After saturating the world with advertising - “Travel by Phone”, “It’s quicker by Wire” - and performing a number of publicity stunts, it becomes a success.
There are some accidents and hiccups in the system. Not very many of them - they lost only one client in six million - but when they did happen, they were “very peculiar indeed”. Occasionally transmitters would breakdown while a customer was being scanned, or two wires would get crossed, blending the two passengers. Earthing along the line could cause the traveller to just fade away. If a person hit an area of high resistance while in transit, they would come out a bit lighter than when they went in. This effect, under controlled conditions became a popular way for massively obese people to lose weight.
As the story ends the narrator reveals a secret:
I don’t travel by wire! You see, I helped invent the thing!