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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Universal Technical Consultative Service  
  Interstellar travel plans calculated, reserved and confirmed.  

Well before the internet or the power of personal computers, when computers were controlled by skilled operators, and everything was hardcopy, Jack Vance proposed an enterprise that could have produced a Gatesian gazillionaire if things had turned out differently.

"He went to an office of the Universal Technical Consultative Service, and gained the attention of an operator. 'Set up this problem,' said Gersen. 'Two ships leave the planet New Hope. One proceeds directly here, to Avente. The other goes to a red dwarf star, spends half a day, then comes to Avente, arriving ten days later. I want a list of the red dwarf stars which this second ship might have visited.'
The operator considered. 'There is oviously an ellipsoid shell here, the foci being New Hope and Alphanor. We must take into account the accelerations and decelerations, the probable coast periods and landing times. There will necessarily be a locus of most probability, and areas of diminishing probability.'
'Set up the problem so that the machine lists these stars in order of probability.'
'To what limits?'
'Oh - one in fifty. Include also the constants of these stars as given in the directory.' 'Very well, sir. The fee will be 25 SVU.' Gersen brought forth the money; the operator translated the problem into precise language, spoke into a microphone. Thirty seconds later a sheet of paper dropped from a slot. The operator glanced at it, signed his name, handed it without a word to Gersen."
Technovelgy from The Star King, by Jack Vance.
Published by Berkeley in 1964
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Submitted by an anonymous reader.

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  More Ideas and Technology from The Star King
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Vance
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