Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ralph Williams' "Business as Usual, During Alterations" (novelette, free): Economic changes when copying is free

An illustration accompanying the original publication of the short story Business as Usual, During Alterations by Ralph Williams in July 1958 issue of Astounding Science FictionThere have been a lot of stories about both material duplicators, & (relatively recent dystopias) about copying of things like movies. This one is among the best I've seen of the class.

Doesn't offer any real solutions, however, to those concerned about internet copying of stuff, except suggestion to handle the issue calmly & by taking into account the human nature.

Story summary.

To test just how selfish humans can be, alien elders have quietly introduced a material duplication machine here. In goes anything that fits input "pan"; out comes an exact duplicate from output "pan" (after pressing a button). No need to input any materials either. Works only for non-living things. Can copy itself. Can be easily modified to copy larger objects. There is a possibility of may be duplicating things remotely & wirelessly too!

But the machine comes with a printed warning: 'Warning! A push of the button grants your heart's desire. It is also a chip at the foundations of human society. A few billion such chips will bring it crashing down. The choice is yours.'

This story tells us of a day at Brown's, a department store - the day material duplicators first appeared. Primarily from the point of view of John Thomas, the store manager - though we get other points of views too.

See also.

  1. Murray Leinster's "The Duplicators" (download): Another good read about material duplicators. And a funny one too.
  2. Murray Leinster's "The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator" (download): Pure nonsensical fun with a similar gadget.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, July 1958.
Download full text as part of the scans of the Astounding issue it originally appeared in.
Rating: A.
Among the stories from Astounding/Analog issues edited by John Campbell.
Related: Stories of Ralph Williams; Tuesday Classics; fiction from 1950s.


LarryS said...

Hmm, sounds interesting!