A friend of mine is trying to track down a short story that her dad enjoyed decades ago, with a view to buying the book for his birthday. It's a comedy, and the plot follows a guy who assembles a robot that then starts to make other robots. Eventually, he has so many of them that he earns a living by hiring them out to his neighbours. Then the tax-man comes calling, saying that he owes millions in unpaid tax, so the first robot's solution is to build another robot that can print money; then the guy is prosecuted for counterfeiting, and the robot manufactures a team of robot lawyers to defend him, and so on (I heard the plot third-hand, so there may be other shenanigans that I haven't covered). Does anyone know the name of the story or the author?
A friend of mine is trying to track down a short story that her dad enjoyed decades ago . . .
It's a comedy, and the plot follows a guy who assembles a robot that then starts to make other robots. Eventually, he has so many of them that he earns a living by hiring them out to his neighbours.
First there was a single robot and now there were two, and Albert was down in the basement working on a third. That, he realized, had been why Albert wanted him to place the order for the steel and other things—but the order hadn't arrived as yet, so he must have made this robot—this Abe—out of the scrap he had salvaged!
Eventually, he has so many of them that he earns a living by hiring them out to his neighbours. Then the tax-man comes calling, saying that he owes millions in unpaid tax,
Then the assessor came.
He sat out on the lawn with Knight.
"Did some improving since the last time I was here," he said. "Afraid I'll have to boost your assessment some."
He wrote in the book he had opened on his lap.
"Heard about those robots of yours," he went on. "They're personal property, you know. Have to pay a tax on them. How many have you got?"
"Oh, a dozen or so," Knight told him evasively.
The assessor sat up straighter in his chair and started to count the ones that were in sight, stabbing his pencil toward each as he counted them.
"They move around so fast," he complained, "that I can't be sure, but I estimate 38. Did I miss any?"
"I don't think so," Knight answered, wondering what the actual number was, but knowing it would be more if the assessor stayed around a while.
"Cost about 10,000 apiece. Depreciation, upkeep and so forth—I'll assess them at 5,000 each. That makes—let me see, that makes $190,000."
so the first robot's solution is to build another robot that can print money;
"There's actual money in those bales? Dollar bills—not stage money or cigar coupons?"
"No dollar bills. Tens and twenties, mostly. And some fifties. We didn't bother with dollar bills. Takes too many to get a decent amount."
"You mean—Albert, did you make that money?"
"You said you wanted money. Well, we took some bills and analyzed the ink and found how to weave the paper and we made the plates exactly as they should be. I hate to sound immodest, but they're really beautiful."
"Counterfeit!" yelled Knight. "Albert, how much money is in those bales?"
"I don't know. We just ran it off until we thought we had enough. If there isn't enough, we can always make some more."
then the guy is prosecuted for counterfeiting,
In the morning, when Knight stepped out of the house, he found the sheriff leaning against the fence with his hat pulled low, whiling away the time.
"Good morning, Gordie," said the sheriff. "I been waiting for you."
"Good morning, Sheriff."
"I hate to do this, Gordie, but it's part of my job. I got a paper for you."
and the robot manufactures a team of robot lawyers to defend him
"We robots want to help," Albert said. "After all, this is our fight as much as yours."
Lee shrugged. "There's not much you can do."
"I've been thinking," Albert said. "All the time I worked last night, I thought and thought about it. And I built a lawyer robot."
"A lawyer robot!"
"One with a far greater memory capacity than any of the others and with a brain-computer that operates on logic. That's what law is, isn't it—logic?"
"I suppose it is," said Lee. "At least it's supposed to be."
"I can make a lot of them."