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Written by Isaac Asimov


Published in 1956


A short story in
Asimov's Robots series.


Set in the Foundation universe


Cover Notes

The story is set in a future where computers play a central role in organizing society. Humans are employed as computer operators, but they leave most of the thinking to machines. Indeed, whilst binary programming is taught at school, reading and writing have become obsolete.

The story concerns a pair of boys who dismantle and upgrade an old Bard, a child's computer whose sole function is to generate random fairy tales. The boys download a book about computers into the Bard's memory in an attempt to expand its vocabulary, but the Bard simply incorporates computers into its standard fairy tale repertoire. The story ends with the boys excitedly leaving the room after deciding to go to the library to learn "squiggles" (writing) as a means of passing secret messages to one another. As they leave, one of the boys accidentally kicks the Bard's on switch. The Bard begins reciting a new story about the Bard himself, ending with the words: "the little computer knew then that computers would always grow wiser and more powerful until someday-someday-someday-- . . . "

Publication History

Publication history in print: