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"At its best, SF is the medium in which our miserable certainty that tomorrow will be different from today in ways we can't predict, can be transmuted to a sense of excitement and anticipation, occasionally evolving into awe."
- John Brunner

Disinto  
  A disintegrating ray.  

Robot AL-76 was created to take on one job - running a Disinto on the moon. The farmers of Hannaford County, Virginia were surprised to meet him.

There exists no adequate description of what occurred afterwards, in spite of the presence of seventy witnesses...

...AL-76 pulled a switch. The Disinto worked, and seventy-five trees, two barns, three cows and the top three quarters of Duckbill Mountain whiffed into rarefied atmosphere...

From Robot AL-76 Goes Astray, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Ziff-Davis in 1941
Additional resources -

This story is a lot of fun to read; you can find it in The Complete Robot.

For a similar device, see the Wunderland Treatymaker from Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven.

(Thanks to Randy for pointing this one out.)

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