When I was a kid, I read an Asimov short story in which two men were talking about one's newly-acquired robot. The robot owner was telling the other fellow about how he could tell the robot to find his glasses, and the robot would know to look in places where he commonly leaves them.

That story, more than anything else, led me to the study of AI software development. I'd really like to re-read it -- but other than the fact that it was from early in Asimov's writing career, I can't for the life of me remember anything else about it.

EDIT: I read this around 1980 or '81, but the story wasn't new then. It "feels" like it was written in the sixties, possibly earlier -- the capabilities of the robot in question are extremely basic, about on par with Robbie from I, Robot, though it might have been able to talk as well.

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    Have you already ruled out I, Robot as a source? I don't remember that specific conversation in the book, but it is a series of short stories chronicling the development and societal integration of robots, so it seems a good guess. But also rather obvious, if you already know it was Asimov. – Steve-O Oct 1 '19 at 13:46
  • That was the first one I thought of. :-) I don't have a copy of it handy though, and while the story titles and summaries that I found were familiar, I couldn't place that specific scene in any of them. – Head Geek Oct 1 '19 at 14:07
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    This doesn't sound very Asimov-like. In fact in "Risk" Susan Calvin makes the point that "find something" (in that case "find out what's wrong") is precisely the sort of command you can't give a robot. – Daniel Roseman Oct 1 '19 at 14:58
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    When were you a kid? – Organic Marble Oct 1 '19 at 15:30
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    I've picked up a copy of I, Robot now, and it's definitely not in that book. – Head Geek Oct 3 '19 at 15:02

Was he a drunk? Instead of the owner of a robot, as described, was he the inventor of the robot using it to serve menial tasks? Instead of finding glasses, could it be other menial tasks? Since I, Robot drew a blank: Is it possible that the mention of the mighty Asimov became a leading question that threw sniffers off the track of other authors on robots? If so, then it could be "The Proud Robot" by Lewis Padgett.

This answer appears to a different question at Drunk Inventor

The ISFDB does not list the anthology I have now, Famous Science Fiction Stories, Adventures in Time and Space, 1946, edited Healy and McComas, which has author credit of Lewis Padgett, aka Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. (aka “All Mimsy Were the Kuttners”, a chapter title in a book about SF which I, like C.S. Lewis wanting to credit an author, would love to credit if I ever find it again.)

The story has a plot about the inventor and his erratic inventions that escape his temporarily sober conscious mind, not connected with the robot Joe’s menial chores. Its insufferable personality and intended purpose as a can opener are like background color to a clue in the story.

Only a few quotes: It is a novelette, and I’m not really down with the site-specific custom of providing enough quotes to read the story without having to, you know, actually read it. I miss Allexperts, where one could provide the author and title of a story with a brief description, and anyone interested could go READ the dam thing. But a few quotes for information on whether or not this is the sought-after story -- just in case the long shot triggers memory.

Originally the robot was intended to be a can opener. Things often happened that way with Gallegher, who played at science by ear.


“I’m tired of Martinis. Why didn’t I make that robot a mechanical bartender, while I was at it?”


Well, no use thinking about it,” Gallegher said. “You can’t release our subconscious.” “Yes, I can,” the robot said. “I can hypnotize myself.”


“Joe. You’ve got to answer me. Your subconscious is dominant --- remember? Now why did I create you?” No answer. “Think back. Back to the hour I created you. What happened then?” “You were drinking beer,” Joe said faintly. “You had trouble with the can opener. You said you were going to build a bigger and better can opener. That’s me.”

If these long shots are not a match, it is such a fun read that the time is well spent. Because Kuttners.

  • According to the ISFDB the 1946 first edition of that classic anthology was simply titled Adventures in Time and Space (which is how I remember it), and the title Famous Science-Fiction Stories was first used on the 1957 Modern Library edition. I provide quotations as needed to verify that the story matches plot points in the OP's description. If the OP provides many plot details then, unfortunately, many quotations are needed. Of course, if the only point that matches is "household robot" then yo – user14111 Oct 8 '19 at 3:49
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    u don't need to quote very much. By the way, in the title of the 1957 and later editions of that anthology, Science-Fiction is hyphenated, so it would not turn up if you did an exact title search without the hyphen. – user14111 Oct 8 '19 at 3:53
  • I think you're right that it's not an Asimov story, somebody would have identified it by now. Narrows it down some, but lots of people wrote robot stories. Simak maybe? – user14111 Oct 8 '19 at 5:38
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    @Occam Shave: thank you. That's not it (I would have remembered the can-opener bit if I'd ever read it), but now I have another story to track down and read. ;-) – Head Geek Oct 9 '19 at 11:27
  • Simak very probably! – Occam Shave Oct 10 '19 at 2:54

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