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"The way you write science fiction is: you sit down at your writing machine and you open your mind to the first thought that comes through."
- Frederik Pohl

Auto Shovel  
  Automated mining equipment for use in space.  

This was just a one sentence reference to this idea.

...being uncovered by the auto shovels operating in the near weightless void of mid space of the big planet moons...
From The Simulacra, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by 1964 in Ace
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