I read a short story in a collection of sci-fi stories a few years ago. It was about a supercomputer on which humanity relied upon to answer difficult questions (much like Isaac Asimov's Multivac). However, the twist at the end of the story was that the computer had no computing powers at all, but was really only controlled by a man living inside. I believe the name of the supercomputer was Maize.

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    Asimov's THE MACHINE THAT WON THE WAR, has both the inputs and outputs of multivac progressively faked by people, using guesswork and intuition. But no MAIZE. Dec 22, 2017 at 20:14
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    I don't know that story but I wonder if the name of the supercomputer could have been Maelzel after the 19th century exhibitor of the fake chess automaton with a little man hidden inside it?
    – user14111
    Dec 22, 2017 at 20:26
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    I don't remember the name (or author), but I recall a story that might be the one being asked about -- Politicians or students were being taken to see the computer, and their questions had to be encoded and fed into it, and it would eventually spit out answers -- as it turned out, there were a sequence of geniuses who each spent X months inside it, acting as 'the computer' because they realized the world needed the psychological boost of believing in a near-omniscient computer to keep stability.
    – K-H-W
    Dec 22, 2017 at 20:50
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    I remember that story! It was originally published in an old Astounding or F&SF magazine. Someone who had started to figure out it was a fake submitted a question if Maize stood for Maelzel, referring to the fake chess player. The guy inside give a fairly boring answer about the genesis of the acronym.
    – zeta-band
    Dec 22, 2017 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Appointment in Tomorrow by Fritz Leiber. It can be found on gutenberg.org.

Two factions compete for power in a post nuclear world: Thinkers (scientist) have had a lot of power and popularity due to fantastic inventions (some of those might be only a deception), but there are opposing forces.

It starts with Jorj Helmuth, a Thinker awaking up and being informed that the President and his general staff are waiting to see Maizie:

Huge as a primitive nuclear reactor, the great electronic brain loomed above the knot of hush-voiced men. It almost filled a two-story room in the Thinkers' Foundation. Its front was an orderly expanse of controls, indicators, telltales, and terminals, the upper ones reached by a chair on a boom.

Although, as far as anyone knew, it could sense only the information and questions fed into it on a tape, the human visitors could not resist the impulse to talk in whispers and glance uneasily at the great cryptic cube. After all, it had lately taken to moving some of its own controls--the permissible ones--and could doubtless improvise a hearing apparatus if it wanted to.

For this was the thinking machine beside which the Marks and Eniacs and Maniacs and Maddidas and Minervas and Mimirs were less than Morons. This was the machine with a million times as many synapses as the human brain, the machine that remembered by cutting delicate notches in the rims of molecules (instead of kindergarten paper-punching or the Coney Island shimmying of columns of mercury). This was the machine that had given instructions on building the last three-quarters of itself. This was the goal, perhaps, toward which fallible human reasoning and biased human judgment and feeble human ambition had evolved.

This was the machine that really thought--a million-plus!

This was the machine that the timid cyberneticists and stuffy professional scientists had said could not be built. Yet this was the machine that the Thinkers, with characteristic Yankee push, had built. And nicknamed, with characteristic Yankee irreverence and girl-fondness, "Maizie."


Meanwhile the question tape, like a New Year's streamer tossed out a high window into the night, sped on its dark way along spinning rollers. Curling with an intricate aimlessness curiously like that of such a streamer, it tantalized the silvery fingers of a thousand relays, saucily evaded the glances of ten thousand electric eyes, impishly darted down a narrow black alleyway of memory banks, and, reaching the center of the cube, suddenly emerged into a small room where a suave fat man in shorts sat drinking beer. ... For many minutes the only sounds were the rustle of the paper ribbon and the click of the taper, except for the seconds the fat man took to close his eyes, or to drink or pour beer. Once, too, he lifted a phone, asked a concise question, waited half a minute, listened to an answer, then went back to the grind.

Until he came to Section Five, Question Four. That time he did his thinking with his eyes open.

The question was: "Does Maizie stand for Maelzel?"

He sat for a while slowly scratching his thigh. His loose, persuasive lips tightened, without closing, into the shape of a snarl.

Suddenly he began to tape again.

"Maizie does not stand for Maelzel. Maizie stands for amazing, humorously given the form of a girl's name. Section Six, Answer One...


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