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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Spider  
  A robotic device that both extruded cable and climbed along it; a space construction robot.  

The Spider is a robot designed for speed in bridge-building; it extrudes the cables and works faster than any other component. They were well adapted for a free space environment.

The two great ovoid bodies were hanging near the surface of the asteroid, about a hundred meters apart. The eight thin metallic legs were pointed downwards, balanced delicately a few centimeters clear of the surface. Between them, probing deep into the interior of the asteroid, was set the long proboscis. As Rob watched, the great, faceted eyes turned towards him. The Spiders were aware of his presence. Somewhere deep in their organic components lurked a hint of consciousness.

Corrie had been fascinated by them from the first moment she saw one. "Why eight legs?" she had asked.

Rob had shrugged. "It extrudes material like a spider. How many legs wouldi you have given it?

From The Web Between the Worlds, by Charles Sheffield.
Published by Not Known in 1979
Additional resources -

A bit more detail:

"...The Spider is a machine with a biological component.”

Rob had seen that lightning flash of understanding illumine her face, and been shocked by it. He drew in a deep breath, rubbed at his dark beard and looked with new respect at those alert, pale-blue eyes.

“I’ll bet people do that all the time with you,” he said wryly. “You look about eighteen, and you stare at them with those big eyes and ask innocent questions. They want to show off a bit, the way I did a moment ago, and before they know what’s happening they’ve spilled something important. Well, the damage is done. I won’t deny it, even though it has been a well-kept secret. The Spider has a key bio component where logically there would be a computer. I suspect that Regulo’s people have been going mad trying to come up with a microprocessor with a high enough level of parallel processing—that was my bottleneck for about six months."

Compare to Arthur C. Clarke's spider used to test the cables of a space elevator in The Fountains of Paradise. Spinnerettes were used to handle and dispense continuous pseudo one-dimensional diamond crystal in building the cables.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Web Between the Worlds
  More Ideas and Technology by Charles Sheffield
  Tech news articles related to The Web Between the Worlds
  Tech news articles related to works by Charles Sheffield

Spider-related news articles:
  - Spidernaut, Orbital Construction Robot
  - Robotic Space Spiders To Crawl Sub-Orbital Web
  - Robot Fabricates Endless Tools For Itself (Updated)
  - Robonaut To Get Eight-Legged Spidernaut Configuration?
  - SpiderFab Spider Robots To Weave Space Structures
  - Archinaut 3D Printing Autonomous Space Manufacturing System
  - Siemens 3D Printing Robot Spiders
  - RAMST - Robotically Assembled Modular Space Telescope
  - Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
  - Spider Flyer Walker Space Suit For Mars Astronauts
  - Autonomous 'Fiberbots' Weave Large Structures
  - CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder

Articles related to Space Tech
NASA's Electric Motor Scooter
Extremophile Microbe Loves Space Rocks
Space Domes Over-rated? Science Fiction Authors Have Answers
NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas

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