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Part I: Concepts > Of Mice and Brooms: An Informal Introduction to Automation

1. Of Mice and Brooms: An Informal Introduction to Automation

Come, old broomstick, you are needed,
Take these rags and wrap them round you!
Long my orders you have heeded,
By my wishes now I’ve bound you.
Have two legs and stand,
And a head for you.
Run, and in your hand
Hold a bucket too.

From The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Just about all of the information you need to understand automation is contained in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence of the 1940 Disney animated classic Fantasia—really. To help you understand, here’s a quick recap of its plot: Sorcerer exits to run a few errands, leaving his apprentice (played by Mickey Mouse) to fill a basin with water. The mouse sees an opportunity and uses his boss’ incantation to bring a broom to life to do the chore for him. Broom quickly fills basin but won’t stop. Mouse applies ax to said broom. But instead of ceasing and desisting, the single broom becomes an army of brooms, marching on to fill the now-overflowing basin and flood the room. Mouse panics and is surely doomed. Sorcerer returns and restores order. Sorcerer shoots stern look at mouse, but all’s well that ends well. Finis.


  

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