During the discussion, Dr Asimov claimed that he could write under any circumstances and his fellow panelists challenged him to prove his claim by writing a new Short Story before the end of the panel. He accepted this invitation with excitement (having primed himself to expect the challenge while backstage), and began writing vigorously. With his Pride at stake, Dr Asimov continued to participate in the panel while creating the story. Before 8:30pm, he read the story aloud for the Studio Audience.
"Insert Knob A in Hole B" takes place in a remote outpost where his fellow panelists have been having trouble assembling the various equipment they've been provided with. At best, their equipment is somewhat functional, and some of the life-support systems occasionally stop working. Like the panelists theyre based on, Hansen and Woodbury complained about poorly written technical documents. They sent formal (and emphatic) requests for solutions. To help them, a robot was designed to assemble any possible machine that has ever been built, no building instructions needed. Now that it's arrived, Hansen and Woodberry discuss what they'll instruct the robot to reassemble first. The crate is opened to reveal... a blurry sheet of badly written directions and five hundred pieces to assemble.
This story was later published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction (December 1957), Nightfall and Other Stories (1969), Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990), Tell Me a Story: Science Fiction One (1997), Creation Myth Or Miracle (13 December 2013)
The following tropes may need some assembly:
- The Annotated Edition:
- When it was published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, the editor's introduction focused on Dr Asimov's incredible list of achievements since this story was yet another; a story written in twenty minutes while engaged in a conversation. Naturally, this introduction is longer than the story itself.
- When it was published in Nightfall and Other Stories, this story contained an introduction where Dr Asimov explained the inspiration behind the story.
- Anti-Climax: The story is a build-up to a Science Fiction resolution to the elimination of unclear assembly instructions. The solution created by the best engineers on Earth is... an unassembled robot with unclear assembly instructions.
- Audio Adaptation: Adapted to audiobook format by Paul Williams for his Anthology named Tell Me a Story: Science Fiction One.
- Beige Prose: Due to the tight time constraints, this story is positively minimalist, using physically descriptive adjectives with emotional connotations to drive the viewer's imagination. Because he was performing in front of an audience when he initially wrote this story, he didn't describe the protagonists very much, relying on the fact that he was using his fellow panelists to tell the story.
- Constrained Writing: Isaac Asimov wrote this story while live on television (although he admitted he saw the challenge coming and prepared for it). The preparation time was a few minutes before the show started.
- Disintegrator Ray: Hansen and Woodbury use "demoleculizer rods" to take apart the crate, making sure not to damage the contents inside.
- Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: The characters and setting are barely given any description, Dr Asimov relies on the Studio Audience being able to see his fellow panelists and the context of the panel itself to paint the scene. The only room mentioned in the entire space station is the airlock.
- Flash Fiction: Dr. Asimov was challenged to write a complete story that shared a Central Theme with the discussion panel from scratch before the end of the discussion panel. This 350 word story is the result.
- Furniture Assembly Gag: Hansen and Woodbury, two scientists in the remote Space Station A5, have trouble with assembling all the necessary equipment sent to them, since the instructions are poorly written and barely legible. Their bosses on Earth respond to their complaints bysending a robot capable of assembling any piece of machinery, no instructions necessary. But the robot ships to them in disassembled form, with "one blurred and ambiguous direction sheet for assemblage."
- The Key Is Behind the Lock: The machine that can correctly put together the components of any device, is disassembled into its components for shipping.
- Rapid-Fire Interrupting: If you can find a copy of the show, you'll see Hansen and Woodbury are deliberately trying to interrupt Dr Asimov as he writes this story, making it harder for him to win the bet.
- Science Show: WGBH invited Isaac Asimov, John Hansen, and David O Woodbury to present on the importance of clear communication for science and technical ideas.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: In almost a whole year, the two characters have been unable to correctly assemble a single piece of equipment due to the poorly written instructions. So Earth sends a robot which will perfectly assemble any machine without need of instructions. It arrives unassembled, with a set of poorly written instructions.
- Techno Dystopia: Hansen and Woodbury are struggling with life on Space Station A5, due to the fact that none of their equipment works correctly.
- Wham Line: "And there within it were five hundred separate pieces-and one blurred and ambiguous direction sheet for assemblage."