Asking for lists, or other open-ended questions are usually discouraged in most SE sites, including this one.

In space exploration stackexchange (SX-SE) I've just asked the question What would be the (most difficult) challenges to making a "10,000 year satellite"?.

Just briefly, it's a question about a at-least-partially mechanical satellite that - like the 10,000 year clock - should be designed and launched into an orbit such that it's reasonable to expect or hope that it lasts for 10,000 years. Once a year it should emit some rudimentary radio beep, flash of artificial light, or at least change its reflectivity to suddenly "appear" for a few weeks.

Now, I'd like to ask here in SF SE if there have been stories with descriptions of some kind of mechanical satellite - something that has been designed to make use of low tech mechanical or other things so that it might survive a long time and then "wake up" and do something.

The first, burried obelisk in 2001 A Space Odyssey might be an example of something that wakes up an does something, but they were (I assume) not low-tech mechanical devices.

But I think I'm getting close to being off-topic. Any advice how I might be able to proceed?

  • 1
    Would it be acceptable to you to ask which was the first story that fits your criteria? That's a common way around this problem, since there's an objective answer to it (only one story can be the first).
    – Null Mod
    May 18, 2016 at 14:17
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    @Null - And that's why I hate those questions.
    – Valorum
    May 18, 2016 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


Ask on chat.

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    I just clicked the link, looked, and someone said "My temp is 97 wtf guess im ded im in bed now" I'm afraid of chat - it just gets so weird! :)
    – uhoh
    May 18, 2016 at 16:59
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    @uhoh You've stumbled across an even deeper issue there. You're not wrong to feel like that place is weird. However, just out of interest to you, on-topic conversations should (and will) take precedence over general "chatting". If you were to pop in there, you could ask your question, chat for a while, and get the answer(s) to your question. Who knows, you might even stay there a while.
    – Möoz
    May 18, 2016 at 21:16
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    @uhoh Please don't be scared off chat by one bit of weirdness! :-) Most of the regular chatters are a lovely bunch, and we always welcome newcomers (who sometimes become regular chatters themselves). If you pose an SFF question during a lull in the chat, it could easily become the new topic of discussion with many people giving interesting input.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 18, 2016 at 21:29

The sort of question you have in mind is interesting, but it's off topic for the site. Asking in chat (like Jason Baker mentioned) or in a discussion forum on some other site are probably your best options.

I don't recommend asking for the first such example unless you actually care which story was the first: it doesn't seem like a good idea to rephrase your question in an attempt to dance around the off-topic restrictions on the site. On the other hand, if you think that knowing the first example of a story with certain criteria would be interesting, feel free to ask that question. Maybe mention in the question why you are interested in the first example specifically. To me, that explanation can make the difference between a good first-appearance question and a question that is merely on topic.

  • Thank! Honestly in my case it would probably be dancing, and I've been told on more than one occasion that I'm a profoundly bad dancer. I'm scared of chat - for no particular reason except that it can seriously eat time.
    – uhoh
    May 18, 2016 at 16:57

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