Copying Machines

August 3, 2009
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He entered the factory. He had a small figure and pale complexion, and his glasses didn't much help in the department of attractiveness. He went to the station he was assigned for this week. He changed stations every week.

Ulrich Weishauser looked towards the beginning of the assembly line. Robotic arms as far as the eye could see. Twisting, turning, moving, never sleeping, never breaking. They don't go on vacation, you know. They don't want money. They don't care. They don't care about anything. They don't have families, loved ones, friends, relatives. They just do what they're told.

“Hey, bud.” A coworker nudged him out of his trance. “You gotta stay focused on this stuff. I know, it gets to be real boring like, but this stuff 's'right heavy and you could get yourself a whack over the head if you don't pay attention!” The large man wore a blue shirt and denim pants. He wore gloves with grease smeared all over them and a face covered in sweat. His shirt was personalized with the name “Peter” and was subsequently unpersonalized with the logo for company he worked for.

“Wait, you're the new guy! Well, hey, uh....” Peter leaned his head to the left to read Ulrich's designation, a lovingly embroidered patch sewn with care by the company's computer automated uniform service. “...Eric. Well, I guess I'll show you the ropes.”

A large engine stood suspended in the air by a system of chains and pulleys and levers. A frame stood below. Anton was on the catwalk above, lowering the massive metallic feat of engineering down. He paused, checking every so often that it was aligned correctly. No mistakes. Ever. He was a good worker.

“Sometimes, they'd carve a little message on those there frames. Y'know, the welders those robots replaced? Ah, wait, that's right; you just got here.”

Anton wiped the sweat off his brow. It was replaced with grease. “We take shifts, y'know? One person on the side makes sure that the engine is level, and the guy up here loads, lowers, and locks the engine. I have'ta make sure it's also bein' fit right. Listen, you just shadow Pete. He'll take care of ya.”

The engine had been lowered as they spoke. It fit into the frame like a glove.

*ERR*. The klaxon spurted a short yelp. Peter quickly scaled the ladder, with Ulrich in pursuit. Ulrich paid close attention to the levers and knobs and dials and where Peter's eyes were looking. “Eric, you see that box?” Peter pointed Ulrich to a rectangular structure in the frame's pipe formation. “Just take an engine from the there” -he pointed up to the engine line - “lower it down into there and pull this to unlock the chain. How about you give it a try!”

Ulrich sat in the chair and let Peter's large, calloused hands guide his own skeletal fingers through the steps. He showed him some little sneaky shortcuts that saved time and made the job easier. *ERR*. And they went into the break room.

As they descended the ladder and made their way to the lounge, Peter laughed and said, “You haven't worked a day in your life, have you?”

Ulrich paused, and replied, “I'm just part of that whole unemployment thing. It's the economy. You gotta take what you're given.”

“I hear yah. They say the factory is laying off people. They just did it with the guys before us. I think we might be next.”


Ulrich went home after a long, tiring day. He opened the gate to his house, went down the long walkway, opened the door, walked in, and closed the door. He was greeted to by his lovely parlor. It was decorated by an interior designer. He's had many important people sit on that couch, sip tea with him over the glass coffee table.

He entered the keypad code and descended into the basement. The heavy door behind him closed softly. He went over to his e-mail computer. A message read “Mr. Weihauser, I hope you'll have it done by this week, like you always do.”

He went to his design computer. A simple computer vision in C++ should suffice. He typed the code into the computer, making sure the syntax was perfect. Get an engine. Find a rectangle, put the engine in. Release the chain. Repeat.

He was polishing up the code for the second robot when he noticed he named the two programs Peter and Anton. That's enough coding, Ulrich decided, for a Monday evening.


It was Tuesday. He sat once more in the break room. They were all going to lose their jobs. It was all his fault. He's getting all this money so more people can be laid off. He turned on the TV, tuning out his thoughts.

A strange sight caught his attention. An old clip, black and white. A large room of people, all writing. Ulrich asked Anton, “Who are those people and what are they doing?”

Anton thought for a second, and then said, “Hey, y'know what? Those guys are copiers! They take a document, and write it word for word on another paper.”


A frame had rolled by with an engine in it. Two robots had installed it with unerring accuracy. “Hey, uh....” -he looked at his coworker's name tag- “Eric, could you hand me that paint?”





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mwatt12 said...
Sept. 12, 2009 at 3:08 pm
Amazing. Wonderful portrayal of an issue that will soon affect the majority of America. Will machines take the jobs of the hard working middle and lower class? Will unemployment raise even higher than it is now? People don't often think about it, but the truth is yes, the age of machines is rising and employers are always looking for a way to cut costs. Less employees is an easy way to go about that. Your writing is fantastic. Great work!
 
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