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" I sometimes suspect that we're seeing something in the Internet as significant as the birth of cities. It's really something new, it's a new kind of civilization."
- William Gibson

Machine Servant  
  A wheeled plastic box with universal-joint arms.  

Departing somewhat from the usual tradition of humanoid robots, this machine is simple and functional in design.

“You Hoomen will be our guests and our allies in conquering Sharanna and the Vramen,” Holl Gormon went on. “Suitable quarters will be assigned you here in Vonn.”

He touched a switch. To their surprise, it was a machine-servant that answered. The thing was a heavy plastic box with jointed arms, which rolled into the office on its wheels and spoke in a rasping monotone.

“Your orders?”


(Machine-servant from 'The Star of Life' by Edmond Hamilton)

“Conduct these people to the west suite on the third floor,” Holl Gormon instructed. The machine-servant turned and started to roll out of the room, saying tonelessly, “Will you please follow me?"

“It will take you to your quarters,” Holl Gormon said to them. “I shall confer with you again later tonight.”

Kirk Hammond unwillingly followed with Wilson and Iva and the others. There was something curt about their dismissal that he did not like. The machine-servant took them to a lift, up to the third floor and into a suite of connecting rooms that looked across the flat black roofs of sunset-lighted Vonn.

“These are your rooms.” The machine spoke raspingly. “You will find the nutrition-dispensary buttons beside each door. The red button will summon one of us to hear your commands.”

The thing rolled away.

Technovelgy from The Star of Life, by Edmond Hamilton.
Published by Startling Stories in 1947
Additional resources -

Here's the full explanation of the scene:

“No intruders are allowed in the Psychological Department tonight, under Mar Kami’s order. Retire at once.”

The machine, as it spoke, raised a jointed arm that held a lethal-looking cylinder pointed straight at Hammond. Hammond tried to temporize. Surely a man could out-wit a mere mechanical thing?

“Mar Kann sent me,” he declared, edging a little nearer. The rasping voice retorted instantly.

“You will retire at once, for you are not Mar Kann nor one of the Psychos.”

Hammond turned as though to obey, then whirled with the energy-pistol in his hand upraised. He dared not fire, lest the crashing blast arouse all the building. He tried to knock the weapon from the machine-servant’s grasp. The cylindrical weapon was bolted to the jointed arm! He discovered that in dismay as his futile blow rebounded.

“Get on top of it, Kirk!” cried Thayn in warning.


('The Star of Life' by Edmond Hamilton)

Desperately, he heeded the Vraman girl’s cry and leaped up on top of the machine-servant’s square box. Crouching on it, he hammered furiously with the muzzle of his weapon at its lens-eye. The pistol-barrel smashed through the lens as the machine rolled under him with universal-jointed arms reaching up to seize him. Then suddenly the arms stopped, and the whole machine froze motionless...

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Star of Life
  More Ideas and Technology by Edmond Hamilton
  Tech news articles related to The Star of Life
  Tech news articles related to works by Edmond Hamilton

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