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"Science fiction is what scientists would do if they could - if they had enough grant money, enough time, and enough brains to do the wonderful things they would like to do."
- Greg Bear

Master Machine  
  One single machine to run a civilization!  

The Master Machine is set to take the places of the best trained human operators.

For, as we stood behind the heavy canvas folds that Keston had drawn aside, there towered, fifty feet above me, halfway to the arching roof, a machine that was the ultimate flowering of man’s genius. Almost man-form it was—two tall metal cylinders supporting a larger, that soared aloft till far above it was topped by a many-faceted ball of transparent quartz. Again I had a fleeting, but vivid, impression of something baleful, threatening, about it. Small wonder, though. For the largest cylinder, the trunk of the man-machine Keston had created, was covered thick with dangling arms. And the light of the xenon tube that flooded the screened space was reflected from the great glass head till it seemed that the thing was alive; that it was watching me till some unguarded moment would give it its chance…

Keston strode to the canvas screen and pulled a cord. The great canvas curtains rolled back. “Here is the machine, my Lords!” His face was lit with the glow of pride of achievement. His voice had lost its reverence. Rapidly he continued: “The head of this contrivance is a bank of photo and sono-electric cells, each facet focussed on one of the screens. Through a nerve-system of copper filaments any combination of lights and sounds will actuate the proper arm which will shoot out to the required bank of buttons and press the ones necessary to meet any particular demand.

The chief wheeled to the master machine and pressed a button. Instantly, the hundreds of dangling arms telescoped out, each to a button bank where a moment before a prolat had labored. And, with a weird simulation of life, the ten forked ends of each arm commenced a rattling pressing of the buttons. Rapidly, purposefully, the metallic fingers moved over the key-boards, and on the screens we could see that the machines all over the world were continuing on their even course. Not the slightest change in their working betrayed the fact that they were now being directed by a machine instead of human beings.

From The Revolt of the Machines, by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat).
Published by Astounding Stories in 1931
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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Revolt of the Machines
  More Ideas and Technology by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)
  Tech news articles related to The Revolt of the Machines
  Tech news articles related to works by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat)

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