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I have been trying to find even a reference to this book and haven't been able to do so. I read it in the early '80s, but it might have been published a bit earlier. It was a rather small mass market paperback novella, maybe about 100 pages, with a black cover. I think the title was in green-screen letters.

What I remember of the story was that someone was bringing this computer online to run the entire country (more or less) and I think it was becoming self-aware. But there was a sub-plot about a suburban woman frustrated with something like an electric bill, who got a punch card she had to do something with and return. The card had the old "Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate" warning. So in annoyance, she carefully washed and ironed it dry, shrinking it by like 1/16", and in the end, it caused the card reader to jam and brought down the entire system.

I was quite sure the title was "Ultima One", but there is no search I've tried that brings up anything relevant.

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This is Ultima One by Richard P. Stoughton.

Per this brief review;

A complex computer network gets out of control and endangers the world.

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Note that this is a 1980 novella (191 pages) with a black cover with green screen letters.

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  • That is EXACTLY it, thank you! Now I know I'm not crazy!
    – Random
    May 16 at 17:22
  • @Random - Happy to help
    – Valorum
    May 16 at 17:26
  • 2
    So is there any connection between this novella and the computer game series Ultima? The third instalment in the game series, Ultima III: Exodus (1983), culminates with you destroying the titular supercomputer Exodus by feeding punch cards into it.
    – Showsni
    May 16 at 19:25

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