"There's a poetry in the materials we use to construct our world of artifacts; it speaks of our long history as a technological species."
In the story, the tracer-birds are used to spy upon the novel's main character. It is noteworthy that Zelazny hit upon a useable way for UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles) to do solar charging automatically.
The earliest reference that I know of for a robot that can charge itself is from the 1960 short story Callahan and the Wheelies by Stephen Barr. See the article for the self-charging robot.
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'The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus...'
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'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'
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''Halt!' A robot guard appeared...'
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'...a police control-override.'
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'The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye...'
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'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
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"... Almost as good as the original it was printed from."
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'See Vee Threepio - Vee for versatility - at your service...'
Google's Skin Tattoo Lie Detector
'Three and a half centimetres in diameter, permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
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