Niccolo Mazetti is unhappy with his Bard, his story-telling computer. His friend Paul Loeb tries to upgrade the Bard and tells Niccolo about the wonderful possibilities opening up for him, including the learning of a forgotten art called "writing". The Bard manages to overhear this and, after they leave, tells a story to itself of its own pain.

I loved this story when I was young—I even tried to memorize it once. It has lots some of its luster over the years, however. I'm willing to grant the existence of a society where people cannot do arithmetic à la "The Feeling of Power,” but I really have a hard time believing in a society without the written word. And, by today’s standards, Bards are rather primitive and uninteresting machines.

(Mind, there is a distinction between a society where people won’t read—like ours—and one where they can’t read. The problem with the story lies in that difference.)

The main problem, however, is the story is a little too strong on the pathos—perhaps just right for a preteen, but a bit sappy for someone older. Asimov pulls at the heart-strings far more effectively with “The Ugly Little Boy” than he does here in this competent, but not overwhelming, story.

This story was adapted as a play called “The Story Machine” and published in the February 1958 issue of a periodical called Plays, although I have never been able to locate a copy to see how well (or poorly) it turned out.

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