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"Does it open a new horizon for my thinking? Does it lead me to think new kinds of thoughts, that I would not otherwise perhaps have thought at all? These qualities are what [make] science fiction ...unique."
- 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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