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"I've been very obsessive about writing science fiction for far too many years. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have given up years ago."
- Charles Stross

  A robotic beast of burden.  

It looked harmlessly like a woodpile sheltered against possible rain. Thomas pulled off the skins and contemplated the sleek functional lines of the robass. Smiling, he stowed his minimal gear into its panniers and climbed into the foam saddle. The starlight was bright enough so he could check the necessary coordinates on his map and feed the data into the electronic controls...

Thomas had never ridden a robass before, but he was inclined, within their patent limitations, to trust the works of the Technarchy. After several miles had proved that the coordinates were duly registered, he put up the foam backrest... and went to sleep.

From The Quest for Saint Aquin, by Anthony Boucher.
Published by Holt in 1951
Additional resources -

Here are some additional details:

He... took his first opportunity to inspect the robass in full light. He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs, so necessary since roads had degenerated... the side wheels that could be lowered into action if surface conditions permitted; and above all the smooth black mound that housed the electronic brain - the brain that stored commands and data concerning ultimate objectives and made its own decisions on how to fulfill those commands in view of those data...

Compare to the centipede-machine from Monsters of Mars (1931) by Edmond Hamilton, the centipede from Killing Titan (2015) by Greg Bear and the walking fort from The Killing Machine (1964) by Jack Vance.

Thanks to Mark for contributing this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Quest for Saint Aquin
  More Ideas and Technology by Anthony Boucher
  Tech news articles related to The Quest for Saint Aquin
  Tech news articles related to works by Anthony Boucher

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