Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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UNKNOWN AUTHOE
WRITING AS
RICHARD CASEY

AUTOMATON

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First published in Amazing Stories, February 1949

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-04-25
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Cover Image

Amazing Stories, February 1949, with "Automaton"



Illustration


SOME months ago this magazine published a number of articles on high-speed mass production and the development of automatic machinery. It was pointed out at the time in Fortune magazine that the world was technologically ripe for another form of industrial revolution—the change from mass production to completely automatic production—eliminating the human element practically completely.

A very recent issue Of Fortune followed up the earlier story with an amplification of the idea. It was an idea already mentioned in the pages of Amazing Stories. And it seems that unfortunately the British have beaten us to the draw.

This issue of Fortune described in elaborate detail a monstrous automatic machine hundreds of feet long, designed by a former Hungarian engineer. This machine produces what amounts to a finished radio upon the insertion of practically raw materials into one end.

It is one of the most amazing developments we have ever seen. Some years ago the Hungarian engineer became interested in electronic developments. He noticed that in that science alone could the human faculties be duplicated. He realized that anything done by men could be better done by completely automatic electronic machinery—except thinking.

With the aid of British industry and technicians, he built and put into operation this incredible machine. The main motivation for developing it was tbe desire to provide the Asiatic peoples with a cheap little radio receiver. Because the living standards of the Asiatics are unfortunately so low, any radio that is hand-made, even by mass production methods, is entirely out of reach of these low-income groups.

Now mass production makes things cheaply. But no matter how far the art goes there is still the necessity for human labor. Since this is costly in the Americas and in Europe, there is a point eventually beyond which production costs cannot be lowered. There is only one answer. Eliminate labor.

And the electronic machine does just this. It produces as an end product an almost finished radio receiver. Nothing needs be done to this receiver except the insertion of tubes into it and the attachment of the loudspeaker. While at present these last two operations are not yet automatic, they will be eventually. Then the machine will be absolutely, unequivocally, a robot.

Molded plastic plates are fed into the machine at the beginning end—the "mouth." Incidentally, the machine owes its existence to the development of the "printed" circuit, also discussed in this magazine. The molded plastic plates are carried by almost human conveyors past blow-torch nozzles which spray them with vaporized zinc fed into the flame in the form of wire. Thus the plate is completely metalized. Then automatic milling-cutters proceed to remove the zinc except for the pre-set parts which will serve as the conductors or the "wiring." The plate is then operated on in a number of ways. Disk "condensors" are attached. Graphite-line resistors are painted automatically on the plate. And all the while, photo-electric "eyes" are inspecting the product and at the first sign of defect or trouble either tbe part is rejected or the machine is turned off.

Eventually tube sockets are automatically connected to the plate, It is then given a complete and thorough test and inspection by electronic hands and eyes and then emerges from the machine—a finished radio except for the tube and speakers.

THIS device is now ready to produce more and more complex parts. It is the answer to low-cost television, a problem which has been bothering designers here and abroad. Already a corporation is being formed to handle the American end of the machine. In a short while it is likely that we shall be using such machines on a gigantic scale.

With refinements, it is estimated, (hat fifty of these machines employing a few hundred attendants, will eventually be able to produce all the radios built in this country within a year—some fifteen million sets! And this is only a starter. The impact of this machine on our civilization is going to be tremendous. It will change our whole way of living. As was pointed out in the beginning of this article, mass production has gotten the cost of things down as low as it can. Its limiting factor is the cost of human labor, which in the United States, as in most European countries, is high. Therefore the only way to bring down costs, is to eliminate manual labor. The automatic machine is the answer.

While it is naturally starting with radio, a branch of electronics and a science which easily lends itself to this sort of thing, it must be remembered that by no means will it be so restricted. There is no limit to the work that it can be applied to. Imagine the automotive industry being given this sort of treatment. Even now we notice that in American industry there is an enormous trend to the use of completely automatic machinery. Electronics has been penetrating heavy industry through the application of controls to motors, etc. It is only one more step to apply this autcmaticily to the feeding of the automatic machines. Tbe result will be Nirvana!

It is perfectly possible to see factories so automatic that batches of raw material will be poured into one end. Out of the other end will emerge finished products in the form of not only radios but automobiles, refrigerators and anything else you care to think of.

And the gradual development of automatic methods in industry and farming promises us that regardless of the population increases in the world, there will eventually be enough for all. That is, there will be enough assuming that political and historical causes do not nullify the technological advances of the future as they have so often done in the past.

An interesting sidelight on the invention of the automatic radio producer is given by the stress placed on the fact that it is of British origin. This, in spite of tbe difficulties the British have had with their own relatively obsolete production systems. Wait until American technical ingenuity is applied to this thing. Then watch tbe fur fly and the smoke pour out.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.