I love reading and writing short stories. A few years ago I came up with the idea of writing a nonfiction article on the five most influential pre-1950 computers in science fiction. In researching that list of potential computers, I read a number of books and short stories.
E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” topped off the list. It left me speechless and amazed. I wrote a review of that story. You can find it HERE. A second short story on the list was Misfit by Robert A. Heinlein. You can find my review of it HERE. The third computer I found was “The Engine.” The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. You can find it HERE. The fourth is The World of Null-A, sometimes written The World of Ā, is a 1948 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt. You can find it HERE.
“A Logic Named Joe” is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story actually appeared under Leinster’s real name, Will F. Jenkins, since that issue of Astounding also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym called “Adapter”.
The story is particularly noteworthy as a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, written at a time when computing was in its infancy.
The story’s narrator is a “logic” (much like a computer) repairman nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic that he names Joe develops some degree of sapience and ambition. Joe proceeds to switch around a few relays in “the tank” (one of a distributed set of central information repositories), and cross-correlate all information ever assembled – yielding highly unexpected results. It then proceeds to freely give all of those results to everyone on demand (and simultaneously disabling all the content-filtering protocols). Logics begin offering up unexpected help to everyone that includes designing custom chemicals that reduce inebriation, giving sex advice to small children, and plotting the perfect murder. Eventually Ducky “saves the civilization” by locating and turning off the only logic capable of doing this.
“A Logic Named Joe” has appeared in the collections Sidewise in Time (Shasta, 1950), The Best of Murray Leinster (Del Rey, 1978), First Contacts (NESFA, 1998), and A Logic Named Joe (Baen, 2005), and was also included in the Machines That Think compilation, with notes by Isaac Asimov, published 1984 Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
A Logic Named Joe was also published in The Great Science Fiction Stories, Volume 8, 1946 Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenburg, DAW Books, November 1982 ISBN 0-87997-780-9.