JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
I was reading Computers and Automation tonight and found this lovely short story in the July 1956 (volume 5, no. 7) issue. It is a short story written by Jackson W. Granholm (a biographical note on Granholm appears in the ACM notices here) on the application of a supercomputer put to solving a very particular--and peculiar--problem.
The story is called "Day of Reckoning", and tells the tale of the ever-working, highly-dependable-indispensible SUPERVAC being readied to accept the end-all program, readied like the countdown to the launch of Apollo 11 to receive the question, hauling on board into his storyline the other professionals who read the journal for tech reports and info, trying to keep them in his boat with a sci-fi tale based on his own work experience on some big machine at Boeing.
Finally, we see the question: "Describe the detailed design of your superior successor!"
Well of course the SUPERVAC had been working perfectly right up until this time, though with the problem submitted the computer began to behave erratically. It works for 12 hours or so, blinking and flashing away, until at 10:35 pm the MULL light went out, the solution reached.
"12 October 1957, 2230 PM PST, 0130 am GCT--PROBLEM 198BC12-XA--RECKON HAVE EXCELLENT POSITION HERE. NOT 2ISH RELINQUISH IT AT THIS TIME. THANKX. ROGER -- PDA**EM --OUT."
Overall, SUPERVAC "would prefer not to".
[The Melville short story can be found here.]