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Self Configuring Modular Robot (Chapter Cover)

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Chapter 6 - Self Configuring Modular Robot[]


Military procurement is a funny business...

...it has as much to do with politics, culture, and habit, as it does with ideas like effectiveness, reliability, simplicity and cost. To give a quick aside, the American Civil War saw a proliferation of single-shot breechloading Carbines meant for cavalry use while the bulk of rifles for military use were still muzzle-loading all the way to the end of the conflict. Several of these carbines were strong, robust, reliable designs dating from the 1850s with proven actions.

But they didn't handle like the old front-stuffers, so when the Department of the Army decided they wanted a breech loading rifle to replace the 1861 Cold rifled muskets, they went ahead and designed a breech loader that handled much like the musket it was replacing, rather than adopting any of the established designs that had proven highly effective, such as the later-widely-famous Sharps...or any (and I mean any of the repeating, magazine-fed actions that ALSO saw extensive use as carbines for the cavalry).

It wasn't' that they weren't effective, it's that military procurement officers really, really, really prefer to have something they can at least pretend they're familiar with.

Even when Magazine rifles WERE adopted, armies worldwide in the pre-interstellar era initially insisted on having add-on devices to turn their repeating rifles into single-shot, manually loaded rifles. The Magazine Cut-off would continue to be specified well into the 1930s despite the lessons of world war one, and would only disappear once the world was once again plunged into mass conflict and the devices were found to be exactly what they were: an extravagance of uselessness from an obsolete doctrine that failed before it was envisioned in the 1880s.

The Soviet Union adopted the AK-47 not to replace the Moisin-Nagant bolt action rifle (5 shots, manually operated repeating rifle) but instead to replace their stocks of Submachine-guns as a supplementary weapon-the Nagant replacement was a rifle with a fixed magazine that had to be loaded with stripper-clips.

Of course, that didn't last particularly long, the AK-47 was far more useful in far more roles and eclipsed the Simonov, but ended up sharing a period of production with it regardless, because military planners wanted something they felt familiar with, and didn't trust the whole concept of the assault rifle for a generation or so.

What's that got to do with this?

Well, friends and neighbors, There's a funny thing about inertia-once it gets moving, it takes a lot to turn it or slow it down. A computer core was found on Helm a few years back, and everyone eventually got a copy, but the Free Worlds League found another core, and it's been making Garrett Systems lots and lots of money.

A Briefcase has been stolen on the Federated Suns world of Robinson. This will lead to a bit of a security flap, and it will be recovered with a note claiming it wasn't opened.

Meanwhile, at New Avalon Institute of Science, a visiting researcher working as part of an exchange program with the Lyran Commonwealth is messing about with a toy for his nine-year-old son that he purchased two years ago. 'Hermann' is a meter-tall model of an Atlas battlemech available for 1,250 Kroner at Good Buy retailers. It comes with a home entertainment system that can sort your local datanet preferences and control the toy-sized battlemech.

The toy's selling feature is the ability to through a very intuitive user interface (published in 50 languages), 'teach' it to perform small tasks and tricks.

The truly fantastic thing about this toy, which uses imported civilian electronics. It is that while none of the parts are remarkably advanced on their own. The toy (and entertainment system) show a host of features that conventional theories say would require a much, much, much, more sophisticated computer to do.

Karl Franz Whyte's curious enough to be very interested in how it's doing it. He's finally found a way around the anti-tampering and is starting to examine the source code...


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