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The Independent Culture
WHAT CHAOS, confusion and catastrophe might ensue if machines started acting without human instructions? Mayhem in Mayfair, Bedlam in Bedlington, Hullabaloo in Hull and Pandemic Pandemonium, as Pandora's Box is opened . . . readers share their visions of Nightmare on (No-one- at-the-H)elm Street with us.

Jim Cork is there as Thabo Mbeki's clockwork radio loops into a non-stop broadcast of the collected speeches of Nelson Mandela, Mbeki resigns in humiliation and the radio is unanimously elected President. James A. Kelly's laptop has started to dance provocatively and peel off its outer casing, as he puts pounds 20 notes in its floppy disk drive. And he wonders if the Finnish air hostess Loki knows will find her aircraft's autopilot thinks it's a Second World War fighter ace?

Toby Beresford reckons that if a microwave started trying to fax a pot noodle we might end up with the first teleportation machine. Bruce Birchall foresees fruit machines spinning each other's wheels and pouring out a juice bar combination of the three winning fruits. TV remote controls will turn the viewer off, writes Peter Thomas, ink-jet printers will bomb Iraq and supermarket scanners will add "no wonder you're fat" on to women's till receipts. And Clair Hubble suggests bathroom scales will perform instant liposuction on anyone standing on them.

An electronic chiming doorbell in Clapham set off Britain's nuclear deterrent, Mike Gifford reports, and a blackmailer was assisted by his hearing aid listening in on all mobile phones in the vicinity. Bleepers would learn tunes, and join together to form orchestras, says Alan Brooker, and by sending false messages to their owners would arrange to be in the same place at the same time for rehearsals.

Serbia-bound B-62s opened John Pickin's garage doors on take-off, and petrol pumps now siphon 4-star out of Jenny Matthews' car, after years of faithfully pumping it in. Eric Bridgstock's catalytic converter is playing Tom and Jerry with his computer mouse. And Enid Meys' electric drill is turning anticlockwise and filling in holes instead of drilling them. Enid and her trusty Black & Decker are now taking up a new career in dentistry.

Toby Beresford, James A. Kelly and Peter Thomas win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations. Now that New Labour is to abolish poverty within 20 years, we seek imaginative uses for lot 297 in a government auction in the year 2019: four sets of National Lottery balls (used), 196 in total and of various pastel hues, surplus to requirements.

Suggestions to Loki.Valhalla or Creativity, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL, by 7 October. Please include an address. (A puckish Magy Higgs did so, but close examination revealed it was the fictitious 23 Railway Cottages, East Cheam.) Results and three prizes on 12 October. Next week: Readers write their own Patten Reports, reforming some other hidebound institutions in need of major surgery.