Microscopes, right? Well, an Electron Microscope uses beams of electrons instead of light (because they're waves and particles at the same time), and gets much higher resolution. You can take the idea and flip it about a bit and get something a bit more exotic - a Scanning Tunnelling Electron Microscope, which uses an electron beam not only to image things, getting resolution at the atomic level, but actually manipulate them too - it's how scientists have done things like write words a few atoms high and other neat tricks. They typically cost a few hundred thousand quidbucks.
Cheap, easy-to-use, readily available Scanning Tunnelling Electron Microscopes? are one of the recognised prerequisites for Nano Tech and the Historical Singularity.
Like these ones:
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