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"I don't know why I write science fiction. The voices in my head told me to!"
- Charles Stross

Automatic Gun  
  A sentry gun that could target and decide to fire without any human intervention.  

In the novel, a group of scientists are working in a multilevel underground laboratory; the levels were connected by an open central core.

In this excerpt, it is rather important for Mark Hall to scale the central core to reach a different level of the structure.

In theory, once inside the central core, you could go straight to the top. But in practice, there were ligamine sensors located around the core to prevent this. Originally intended to prevent the escape of lab animals that might break free into the core... there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts...

Stone was sitting in the Level V laboratory, watching on the consoles as the computer electric eyes picked up Hall and outlined his body moving up the wall. To Stone he seemed painfully vulnerable. Stone glanced over at a third screen, which showed the ligamine ejectors pivoting on their wall brackets, the slim barrels coming around to take aim...

On the screen, Hall's body was outlined in red on a vivid green background. As Stone watched, a crosshair was superimposed over the body, centering on the neck. The computer was programmed to choose a region with high blood flow...

The ... dart hit him in the shoulder, stinging as it entered his flesh...

Stone watched it all on the monitor. The screen blandly recorded STRIKE and then proceeded to rerun a tape of the sequence, showing the dart moving through the air, and hitting Hall's shoulder.

From The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton.
Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1969
Additional resources -

Automatic guns that target and fire date from WWII. The SCR-584 anti-aircraft gun laying radar was a highly accurate system developed early in the war.

The RadLab [Radiation Laboratory] had a prototype radar system running in April [1941]. To test the automatic aiming system, they attached the outputs from the radar to a gun turret taken from a B-29 bomber, removing the guns and replacing them with a camera. A friend then flew his light plane around the area, and on May 31 the system was able to accurately track the aircraft. Work then started on making the system suitable for field use, mounting the entire system in a single trailer with the 6-foot antenna on top. Known as XT-1, for eXperimental Truck-1, the system was first tested at Fort Monroe in February 1942.

Work also started on a suitable gun-laying computer that could use electrical, as opposed to mechanical, inputs for pointing data. Bell Labs delivered an analog computer known as the M-9 Gun Predictor for this role, able to control four of the Army's standard 90 mm M3 guns.

It could detect bomber-sized targets at about 40 miles range, and was generally able to automatically track them at about 18 miles. Accuracy within this range was 25 yards...
(From SCR-584 radar)

Compare to the robot gun from Aliens (1986), by Alan Dean Foster; this weapon uses artificial intelligence and object recognition. Also, see the invisible watchmen from Murder in the Void (1938), by Edmond Hamilton.

Thanks to an anonymous reader for additional information on this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Andromeda Strain
  More Ideas and Technology by Michael Crichton
  Tech news articles related to The Andromeda Strain
  Tech news articles related to works by Michael Crichton

Automatic Gun-related news articles:
  - Robotic Sentry Gun From USMechatronics
  - South Korean Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot
  - DoDAMM Autonomous Robot Sentry Gun
  - DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face

Articles related to Weapon
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Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
Railguns For Surface Ships

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