As the head scientist prepared to leave, he looked back at the friendly creations he had devoted his whole career to. A Chuck Berry tune was playing over the sound system. He tapped his foot to the rhythm as he punched a code into the security keypad. “Default to Caregiver Mode?” was displayed on the small LCD display of the keypad. He pushed the “Yes” button and confirmed his command. He sighed and left. The door slowly closed behind him and locked with a clunk. As the drove out of the parking lot for the last time, the head scientist pondered the T'Bugs' future. The Robotic Caregivers were in charge now. The Lab was self contained and very secure. The planners on the team had been very optimistic. The Lab would continue to function for years without human intervention. What could go wrong?
How it all started....
However, it was the scientists who made the T'Bugs special. They combined the DNA of insects with these electronic gadgets. The scientists brought consumer electronics to life. Even better, T'Bugs were smarter than insects. They had nearly human personalities and minds of their own. T'Bugs were intended to be amusing and useful pets. Better still, once a specialized T'Bug product was created, it didn't have to be manufactured. They could be cloned. The scientists envisioned vast families of test tube born T'Bugs. Entire generations could be created to live life with their human companions.
The designers imagined hands-free, butterfly-like cell phones that would hover next to your face. They drew plans for super intelligent computers that could walk and talk. They envisioned friendly flying flashlights for camping trips and adorable lightening bugs that could illuminate a child's bedroom. Their sketches became reality. T'Bugs were as cute as cute could be. They had big eyes and adorable smiles. It was an expensive project, but it looked like a winner. Once investors saw the first T'Bugs, their pocketbooks and wallets opened wide. They funded
every nickel, hoping for big returns on these never-before-seen innovations.
The Lab wasn't always a hulking ruin. Built for a top-secret project, it is located at the edge of a remote swamp. Long ago, the Lab was a happy, modern workplace. It was full of music, laughter and bright ideas. At first, the Lab was home to a team of human scientists, engineers and designers. Hidden from prying eyes, this team worked for years to create a bold new class of consumer products. The advertising people back in the head office wanted to call them Technobuggies. Indeed, they were a triumph of technology and genetic engineering. However, to busy team members they were simply called T'Bugs.
The engineers created a lively calculator that could jump from desktop into the hands of a user.
They built a faithful boom box that could follow its owner to the park. They invented long lasting
batteries that needed only moments to recharge. A wide range of T'Bug applications were developed. They were given tough bodies to withstand rough play at the hands of young users. T'Bugs were programmed with a never-say-die will to survive.
The whole project was very carefully planned. Because of its remote location, the Lab had to be self-sufficient. Although thousands of T'Bugs would need to re-charge, adequate energy would not be a problem. Fuel cells converted swamp water directly into electric current. This provided the Lab with limitless power. Fully automated, the building was designed to host a breeding colony of T'Bugs. Once hatched, the second generation of T'Bugs would roam free in a large airy enclosure. Amazing robotic caregivers would tend to them. These mechanical workers were given a high degree of artificial intelligence and programmed to deal with every conceivable situation.
For the most part, everything worked as planned. There was however, one small puzzle that stumped the genius of the scientists. Some of the original T'Bugs developed an independent streak that was impossible to break. In the Lab, T'Bugs were well behaved and worked perfectly. However, when field-tested outside the Lab, many became willful and difficult to train. This became a major problem.
There was a very simple explanation for this difference in behavior: music. Specifically, old Rock and Roll tunes. It seems the scientists played an oldies station on the sound system in the Lab. In fact, they played this music 24/7 throughout the time the T'Bugs were developed. And they played it at full volume. The thumping rhythms had become imprinted on the T'Bugs. Listening to it made them happy and cooperative. Without this background music, T'Bugs lost their focus and had problems following direction. Sadly, the team never made the connection between Rock and Roll and T'Bug behavior. They thought that the next generation of T'Bugs would be easier to deal with. Of course, the next generation was born in the Lab and had the same secret love of Golden Oldies. Music was now part of T'Bug DNA. It would be passed down from generation to generation.
When the breeding program failed to tame the T'Bugs, lawyers got involved. Investors sued and funding dried up. The third generation of T'Bugs were just babies when the Lab was ordered closed. As the deadline approached, the team couldn't bring themselves to destroy the T'Bugs. They had become attached to their creations and honestly, T'Bugs were too darn cute. Besides, who knew what the future might bring? Perhaps funding would be restored in a couple of years.
The robots turned off the music.