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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Eager Beaver  
  Your friendly robot helper.  

The Eager Beaver is a specialist; it works in a hospital and has additional subroutines to assist hospital staff. However, when it fails to understand a command, it proffers a card with the following information.

IMPORTANT NOTICE! This service automaton does not understand human speech. It has no understanding at all, being merely a machine. But for your convenience it has been designed to respond to a list of spoken orders.

It will ignore anything else said in its presence, or (if any phrase triggers it incompletely or such that a circuit dilemma is created) it will offer this instruction sheet.

From The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Unknown in 1956
Additional resources -

To me, this provides evidence of real engineering effort and thought. This is not magically waving a wand and making a perfect robot with perfectly human understanding. This is a device; it has limits and states them clearly for the user.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Door Into Summer
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Door Into Summer
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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