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"I think we're still on that topic, still trying to figure out what computers are, how they change us, why we use them."
- Neal Stephenson

Disintegrator Plate Ray  
  Ray cuts through metal like butter.  

Destruction on a vast scale.

It did not take us long to find the dark bulk of the disintegrator. It was a squat cylinder, for all the world like a huge boiler. At one end there up-ended a periscope arrangement which broadened out to a funnel. In the funnel was a very powerful lens, cut to special measurements. The light of the sun, or any light, for that matter, was concentrated through the lens onto a series of photo-electric cells, composed of an alloy of selenium and the far more delicate element, illinium. A high tension current was there created, of such powerful intensity that it disintegrated the atoms of every element except osmium and indium into their constituent electrons.

Consequently the interior as well as the long slit nozzle orifice at the other end, were made of these resistant metals. Through a special process the tremendously powerful current was forced through the wide-angled nozzle in a spreading thin plate ray that sheared through earth and rock and metals as if they were butter.

Such was the machine we were after.

From The Revolt of the Machines, by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat).
Published by Astounding Stories in 1931
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