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"In WWII, they had a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I think the modern equivalent of that is that there are no jaded, bored people in the high-tech industry, in the land of really good hardcore geeks."
- Neal Stephenson

Mining Worm (Robot)  
  An autonomous mining robot shaped like a worm.  

One way to get materials out of an asteriod is to send a mechanical worm to chew through to what you want.

"D'you realize what R-7 has done now?"

"He's taken the mining worm apart - that's what. I knew that he would! ...The worm was strewn all over the floor!

From Love Among The Robots, by Emmett McDowell.
Published by Planet Stories in 1946
Additional resources -

Larry Niven made use of the idea in a 1968 story - see the mining worm (organic) from A Gift From Earth.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Love Among The Robots
  More Ideas and Technology by Emmett McDowell
  Tech news articles related to Love Among The Robots
  Tech news articles related to works by Emmett McDowell

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