Chapter Eight: Robots

Everyone knew that the Sugar Mill used Robots to do all the work. If anyone visited the Sugar Mill they would have seen robots doing all sorts of jobs but there were also many robots no one ever saw. A few could move around but many were static. Robots did the measuring, the mixing, the packing and they did a lot of cleaning. Everyone knew the music was performed by robots.
The robots were not magical beings. They used a single, simple, power source. At the rear of the Sugar Mill, there was a river. As it passed by the Mill the width of the river had been reduced which caused it to flow faster and at his narrowest point right behind the mill, it turned a huge water wheel.

In the centre of the water wheel, there is the “Great Drive Shaft” that runs from the wheel at the rear of the mill, all the way to the front where it protruded out. It had a giant glass, flat, disk mounted on the end that was covered in crystals. In daylight, the disk appeared to sparkle as it rotated.

Once inside the mill, attached to the “Great Drive Shaft” there were wheels with drive belts that turned smaller shafts. These had a gear ratio such that they turned much faster than the “Great Drive Shaft”. Through a series of cogs and gears, this power was used to automate the static robots. Fletcher had got the idea from wind up musical boxes that he had seen on his fact-finding trips to OFFERSLAND. Instead of having disks with pins that played musical notes in a specific order to make a tune, his disks with pins drove other cogs, levers and pulleys in a specific order to operate cranes, arms and conveyor belts that performed routine tasks needed to produce the various sugar-based products he needed them to make.

There were also several cogs that drove vertical shafts that had keys on the end. The free-roaming robots were powered by mainsprings. These robots automatically returned to one of the vertical shafts and as they passed under it the key would engage and rewind the mainspring. Once fully wound the free-roaming robots would follow the program specified by the pins in the disk they were fitted with.

The free-roaming robots could clean, fetch and carry and could be programmed with disks that made them appear to have an intelligence (Narrators note: The ‘intelligence’ they appeared to have did exist but it was not the robot’s intelligence. It was Fletchers).

The robots that played the music were really just elaborate musical boxes. Fletcher had obtained a supply of musical boxes and simply copied their tiny disks to make bigger ones and with some cogs and levers made them appear to play instruments.

(Narrators note: It is interesting to point out that, even with all this mechanical automation, Fletcher also relied on the Townhall clock. Of course, he could have replaced it, and I am sure it would have been even more accurate but no one would have thanked him for it. Besides, it would have put Sothwik out of a job).

Fletcher had once considered employing townsfolk to work in his Mill rather than using robots, but then if he had done so he would have had to pay them in sugar. They would not need that much sugar and so they would have exchanged it in the SwapExchange on the Wednesday and that would have killed the demand for sugar completely.

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