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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Pray-o-Mat  
  A device that would offer prayers in exchange for a few coins properly deposited.  

It was a machine, gleaming and metallic, before which they moved.

A man inserted a coin into the mouth of a steel tiger. The machine began to purr. He pressed buttons cast in the likenesses of animals and demons. There came then a flashing of lights along the lengths of the Nagas, the two holy serpents who twisted about the transparent face of the machine.

The man drew down upon the lever that grew from the side of the machine cast in the likeness of the tail of a fish.

A holy blue light filled the interior of the machine; the serpents pulsed redly; and there, in the midst of the light and a soft music that had begun to play a prayer wheel swung into view and began spinning at a furious pace.

The man wore a beatific expression.

From Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
Published by Doubleday in 1967
Additional resources -

The buttons spell out the name, occupation and address of the supplicant.

What would you call such a device?

"Tell me, I saw a machine this morning which I think may best be described as a pray-o-mat - are they very common?"

"Yes," said Jan. "They appeared about two years ago - dreamed up by young Leonardo over a short glass of soma one night. Now that the karma idea has caught on, the things are better than tax collectors. When mister citizen presents himself at the clinic of the god of the church of his choice on the eve of his sixtieth year, his prayer account is said to be considered along with his sin account, in deciding the caste he will enter - as well as the age, sex and health of the body he will receive. Nice. Neat."

The corrupt reincarnation scheme run by the original settlers of the planet make sure that the level of civilization never rises above that of simple faith. Here's how they make sure that the pray-o-mats are never reverse-engineered.
"What of the pray-o-mat which squats before this very temple? Is it on a par, culturally, with a chariot?"

"That is different," said Brahma. "As a divine manifestation, it is held in awe by the citizens and is not questioned for religious reasons..."

"Supposing some local atheist hijacks one and picks it apart? And supposing he happens to be a Thomas Edison? What then?

"They have tricky combination locks on them. If anyone other than a priest opens one, it will blow up and take him along with it."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Lord of Light
  More Ideas and Technology by Roger Zelazny
  Tech news articles related to Lord of Light
  Tech news articles related to works by Roger Zelazny

Pray-o-Mat-related news articles:
  - Nokia N73 Preloaded For Ramadan
  - Sajjdah 1426 LED Prayer Rug Has Mecca-Glow
  - Information Age Prayer Pray-O-Mat
  - See Jesus? There's An App For That
  - Trinity Chapel Offers Giving Kiosk
  - Kollektomat Tithing Machine

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