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I remember a scene from one of the Hitchhiker books:

Arthur Dent (I guess) talks to an alien who says that the Earth was this very backwards planet. Arthur says, well, this is not true, we had plenty of amazing technology (like for example submarines, sandwich makers, nuclear energy, television) - the alien says: oh that's interesting, how does this technology work, can you explain or build it? Which Arthur, of course, can not.

I have been looking for this scene in all 5 books, on paper and digitally, and can not find it anywhere. Where is this scene from?

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    The HHGttG was originally a radio play, and I believe that some things were omitted in the transition to books. Did you ever listen to it?
    – Peter Shor
    Apr 2 at 2:26
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    Ah, so many great ideas. The concept is explored a bit more in earnest in L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. The protagonist, thrown back into late antiquity, painfully comes to terms with the limitations of his practically applicable knowledge (and, of course, the painful limitations of the times). Apr 2 at 10:38
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    Definitely not in the radio series.
    – Chenmunka
    Apr 4 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

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“What are you doing in a place like this, Arthur?” demanded Ford.

“Well,” said Arthur, “making sandwiches mostly.”

“What?”

“I am, probably was, the sandwich maker for a small tribe. It was a bit embarrassing really. When I first arrived, that is, when they rescued me from the wreckage of this super high-technology spacecraft which had crashed on their planet, they were very nice to me and I thought I should help them out a bit. You know, I'm an educated chap from a high-technology culture, I could show them a thing or two. And of course I couldn't. I haven't got the faintest idea, when it comes down to it, of how anything actually works. I don't mean like video-recorders, nobody knows how to work those. I mean just something like a pen or an artesian well or something. Not the foggiest. I couldn't help at all. One day I got glum and made myself a sandwich. That suddenly got them all excited. They'd never seen one before. It was just an idea that had never occurred to them, and I happen to quite like making sandwiches, so it all sort of developed from there.”

From Mostly Harmless (the 5th book in the series).

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    A very Adamsian example of Clarke's Third Law.
    – Barmar
    Apr 2 at 14:43
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    I think you've missed the opening quote marks for the first line and final paragraph. But it's ever so nice to hear from the Sandwich Maker From Almighty Bob again! Apr 4 at 16:09
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I think you are remembering a scene from the fifth book, Mostly Harmless. Arthur is explaining to Ford what happened after he crashed on the planet, and encountered a tribe of technologically undeveloped people:

When I first arrived, that is, when they rescued me from thewreckage of this super high-technology spacecraft which had crashed on their planet, they were very nice to me and I thought I should help them out a bit. You know, I'm an educated chap from a high-technology culture, I could show them a thing or two. And of course I couldn't. I haven't got the faintest idea, when it comes down to it, of how anything actually works. I don't mean like video-recorders, nobody knows how to work those. I mean just something like a pen or an artesian well or something. Not the foggiest. I couldn't help at all.

In the end the only new technology he could show them was of sandwich making.

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