(Spoilers here for various decades-old time-travel stories.)
One of my favorite sf stories when I was a kid was Lester del Rey’s 1951 “…And It Comes Out Here,” in which a time traveler goes forward in time and steals a device (from a museum, I think) in the future, then comes back to the present and presents the device as his own invention; the device he brought back with him eventually gets put in a museum (iIrc), where it sits until the time traveler comes and steals it and takes it back in time, completing the time loop. So it’s unclear where the device came from; nobody created it for the first time, it just exists in a loop in time.
I just found out that that trope also appeared in P. Schuyler Miller’s 1944 story “As Never Was”: A mysterious high-tech item is taken from the future by a time traveler and brought back to the present, and then that same item exists in ordinary time until the future time when it’s taken by a time traveler and brought back.
In both stories, the time loop/time paradox is of a very specific kind: it involves a specific high-tech physical object that was never created by anyone, and that exists entirely in the context of its time loop.
(Neither one is a great story, alas. But I’m still intrigued by that trope.)
Other authors have played with related ideas. For example, in Heinlein’s 1941 “By His Bootstraps,” there’s a notebook containing a sort of translation-dictionary that turns out never to have been compiled by anyone. (But the physical notebook itself does have a point of origin.) In Philip K. Dick’s 1954 “Meddler,” the time loop involves savage intelligent tool-using butterflies, rather than a specific high-tech object per se. And in Anne Lear’s 1978 “The Adventure of the Global Traveler or: The Global Consequences of How the Reichenbach Falls into the Wells of Iniquitie,” Shakespeare is inspired to write some lines in one of his plays by hearing a time-traveling actor recite them (from memory of a Shakespeare play). (I think something similar happened with Shakespeare in a Dr Who episode, and probably dozens of other stories. I suspect that the trope of an idea or phrase coming from a time loop like this is very common, which is why I’m focusing specifically on physical objects.)
And in Terminator 2, reverse-engineered future tech becomes part of present tech; that’s not quite a single object existing only in a time loop (I feel like it’s more like the “By His Bootstraps” notebook, where it’s the information that has no point of origin, not the object), but it’s related. (And there may be other examples in the Terminator movies that I’m not thinking of.)
And in Heinlein’s 1959 “All You Zombies…,” an entire person exists only in a time loop. (I’m being intentionally vague here.)
But the only other example I can think of offhand, of a specific high-tech physical object that has no creator and exists in a time loop, is the Timebelt from David Gerrold’s 1974 novel The Man Who Folded Himself (which I haven’t read, but it looks interesting).
So I’m curious: Do any of you know of other examples of this very specific trope?
Again, I’m not looking for time loops in general or time paradoxes in general or self-fulfilling prophecies; I’m looking specifically for works where a specific high-tech physical object was never created by anyone, just exists in a time loop—it’s taken from the future, brought back to the past or present, and then exists in ordinary time until it’s time for it to be taken from the future again. (Or the loop can be more complicated than that, as long as there’s no point of origin for the object.)