Key Item

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Key Item is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. One of a connected series of stories concerning the fictional supercomputer Multivac, it was originally to be printed in a periodical Computers and Automation in 1959, but not used. It later appeared in the July 1968 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and was reprinted in the 1975 collection Buy Jupiter and Other Stories.

Summary[edit]

Multivac refuses to work and teams of scientists cannot locate the fault. The character, Jack Weaver, does not realize that Multivac has feelings and assumes it is broken when it refuses to answer his question. Then the other scientist, Nemerson, realizes that the instructions that have been given to the computer are missing one key item; they need to be polite to Multivac. When the word “Please” is added to the instructions, the computer goes back to work. After all, a machine has feelings—when it isn't a machine anymore.

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