My father bought our first robot second hand.

        My father bought our first robot second hand. He scoured the classified ads in the newspaper when he was at work, and every night when he returned home he spent another hour or two looking through the buy and sell posts on the electronic bulletin boards. Every once-in-a-while he would call my mother over to the computer and show her a posting or an add he had clipped from the paper.        "Can you believe it! This clown's only asking 4k for a '33 Deluth. That's practically a professional grade unit, they use the same guts in the model they sell to hotels and liners, it's a different housing and of course no secondary control unit." He would list off the features of each model, explaining each function to my mother as if she was a child, and she would stand, quiet and respectful until his speech was over.         At first all of the robots my father found were far too expensive. They were recent models, sometimes even brand new, or were outfitted with lots of extra add on features like fingerprint resistant cases and rough terrain stability controls that didn't make much sense for a house robot. In a strange way, my mother never had to talk him out of one of these robots, but instead would say something like "sounds good" or "so how soon can they deliver it?". Father knew the prices were out of the question, but was always hoping my mother would point this out so she could be the bad guy. Sometimes, just to prove her wrong he would spend his lunch breaks working out pages of calculations trying to show that the price was actually affordable, taking into account such costs as "extra water costs to clean finger print cloths - $2 /month" or "savings due to decreased shoe wear - $44 /year", but somehow he never managed to make the math come out on his side.         One weekend last summer during the storms my father was flipping through the broadcasts looking for an alternative to the rained out cricket match and happened upon a DIY program. The show was a moderately popular one although never so much in our house, and centered on a spunky former beauty queen who called everyone "tremendous", and would invite guests on to demonstrate various skills. The hook of the show was the fact that the host was completely hopeless at whatever she tried but put on a big smile after holding up her finished, crooked quilt or spilling paint all over her clothes. It happened that this rainy afternoon the topic was home robot repair. The guest on the program was a retired engineer from one of the big manufacturers, a "real working man" as he came to be know around the dinner table, who had written a series of how-to manuals for common robot maintenance. After the broadcast my father could talk of little else, and soon the advertisements for shiny up-to-date robots that had covered his desk were replaced with copy for spare parts models and thick reference manuals from the library, so old they were printed on brittle newsprint rather than in data files.         With these new models my mother's techniques became less and less effective, and as she stood over my father's shoulder and listened to his spiel, each model more rust covered and antiquated than the last, she grew more and more concerned.         "Honey, is that really safe? I mean, don't they call them the McGabel Statutes because of the McGablel robots and all those houses that burned down? It can't even do up and down the stairs."         "Those were just the early units, before they cleaned up the factories. This thing is a classic! XR4's in good condition go for almost 12k, and this one just needs a new case, a few systems upgrades, maybe a new sensor or two and presto! You've got yourself a robot that will last a good ... 20 years. Heck, for this price we could get two, one for up stairs and one for down."         My mothers only saving grace was the fact the tools and upgrade equipment would have cost more than just buying a brand new robot.         As time passed, and as several modest home repair projects lead to embarrassing calls to local contractors, my father began to talk less and less about robots. Even his nightly sessions on the net slowly petered out, my father choosing instead to sit in his office and listen to the radio. Once in a while we found a stray newspaper clipping when doing laundry, but when the subject came up at dinner my fathers response was always little more than a sigh.         Things continued on like this for nearly 3 months.