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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Usuform Robot  
  A robot designed strictly along functional lines.  

In the story, there is a robot epidemic. Arms and legs become weak and need maintenance - maybe it's because a robot that sits all day doesn't need legs.

What good is a robot shaped like a man, when when it does a simple, repetitive job?

"Almost every robot, except perhaps a few like farmhands, does only one or two things and does those things constantly. All right. Shape them so that they can best do just those things, with no parts left over. give them a brain, eyes and ears to receive commands, and whatever [sensory] organs they need to do their work...

That's the source of your whole robot epidemic. They were all burdened down with things they didn't need...

"But this can't be done overnight. People are used to android robots... They'll be scared of your unhuman-looking contraptions... Give'em a name. A good name... Keep 'robots' thats common domain... I've got it. Usuform. Quinby's Usuform Robots. Q.U.R."

From Q.U.R., by Anthony Boucher.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1943
Additional resources -

Another fascinating part of this story is the discussion of how wasteful it is to have a full "mechanical man" when all you need is just a brain, sensory devices and some sort of manipulators for most tasks.

"Robinc is slowly using up all our resources of metallic and radioactive ore, isn't it?" Quinby asked... "And our usuforms will use only a fraction of what Robinc's androids need."

"A good point... You have convinced me that android robots are a prime example of conspicuous waste..."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Q.U.R.
  More Ideas and Technology by Anthony Boucher
  Tech news articles related to Q.U.R.
  Tech news articles related to works by Anthony Boucher

Usuform Robot-related news articles:
  - Do People Prefer Humanoid Robots?
  - Robots Don't Need To Be Humanoid

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Ad Astra! JPL's Autonomous Undersea Drones

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