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"You have to budget the number of fuzzy rules you use to control a system. It turns out, you can state the optimality principle in three words: 'patch the bumps.'"
- Bart Kosko

Personal Smelter  
  A device used to reduce metallic objects (like coins, pots, cables) to an ingot with known value.  

You can readily judge a society by the objects that are commonplace among its people. In this near future America (as seen in 1975), recycling is part of the culture.

There was a stack of over fifty copper dollars, worth three hundred to any electronics firm, asteroid ores being poor in high-conduction metals. It was illegal to sell currency for scrap, but everybody did it, saying they'd found old saucepans in the attic of a secondhand house, or a disused cable while digging over the back yard.

He tipped the coins into his smelter without counting them because only the weight of the eventual ingot mattered.

From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

Smelters use a great deal of energy; in the non-sf world, a "small" smelter is one that takes the material from just one mine.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shockwave Rider
  More Ideas and Technology by John Brunner
  Tech news articles related to The Shockwave Rider
  Tech news articles related to works by John Brunner

Personal Smelter-related news articles:
  - Your Scrap Copper Future

Articles related to Material
Self-Adapting Composite Heals Itself
Strong Metal, Light Metal - Same Metal!
New Glass Tough As Steel
Blackest Black? New Disordered Nanostructured Material

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