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I read this in the 90s, probably in an anthology of short stories (though it might have been a novelette), and it was not new then.

A ship carrying colonists had landed on a planet. The trip had taken years or decades without suspended animation. It was controlled by a computer that looked and conversed like a human - I think it projected a hologram, but it might have been an android.

The computer had received damage that made it a bit eccentric, including wearing rich, old-fashioned clothes, but it was mostly working. One of its tasks on arriving on the planet had been to persuade the colonists to switch from being content to live comfortably in the confines of the ship to being adventurous and willing to get out and explore, but it had forgotten how to do this. As a result the colonists stayed on the ship for months and made no plans to leave.

One woman had ventured outside and not come back for some weeks. A man asked the computer to construct an all-terrain vehicle to help him find her. I think there were other colonists on the ship but they weren't interested. The planet's surface was largely swamp so the computer built a huge mechanical frog, with a seat on its back for the man to sit on. The frog understood English commands but could only say "Threedeep".

The missing woman was found largely unscathed but took a while to recover emotionally, and the man (somewhat unsympathetically) told the computer that since the rescue she'd done nothing but cry on his lapels. The computer replied that she was a lot stronger than he thought, and asked if he could have survived for weeks alone in that environment. I think it was implied that they'd now be able to go out and colonise once she'd recovered.

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I am fairly sure the story is ... And He Did Ride by Rick Cook. The "riding" refers to riding the mechanical frog. It was in the December 1992 issue of Analog so that fits with your memory of reading it in the 90s.

But I cannot find my copy of the story to confirm this. According to ISFDB it was only ever published in Analog and has never been anthologised so I guess I must have read it in Analog but I no longer have a copy of that issue. I have tried and failed to find a copy online. That issue of Analog may well be on archive.org. If someone can find it perhaps they can add a link to this post.

I think the protagonist is Mackey and I remember the computer calls itself some French name - possible Bonaparte.

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  • Impressive work @JohnRennie ! Was it completely by memory? Nov 23, 2021 at 17:40
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    @ClaraDiazSanchez No, the kernel of a memory, then some frenzied Googling, and I'm still not absolutely sure I'm right :-) But I'm sure I remember the idea of a white knight riding to rescue the fair maiden, on a frog! Nov 23, 2021 at 17:53
  • "…and he did ride" is also a reference to the folk ballad "Frog Went a-Courtin'" which in may versions has the repeated line "Frog went a courtin', he did ride."
    – Lexible
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:53
  • Thanks for the quick and detailed response, @JohnRennie! I didn't remember the computer's name but 'Bonaparte' seems to fit my memory of the story. Also, going by the contents on ISFDB, Dec '92 is one of the very few Analog issues I read in the 90s, so I think you're spot on. Nov 26, 2021 at 10:54
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    @PastychomperthanksMonica possible "Bonaventure". That sticks in my mind or some reason. And I think the woman might have been "Doreen". Nov 26, 2021 at 10:56

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