Recent proposals to analyze a number of major genomes have created a need for methods of rapidly manipulating and assaying very large numbers of specimens containing DNA fragments. Systems for sampling semi-solid biological material from mixed disordered arrays are required. These samples need to be sorted in an ordered format and stored in minimum space at known locations. It should be possible to recall them quickly from stock, individually or collectively, for duplication or re-ordering into new arrays for appropriate analysis. This article reviews a range of problems associated with high speed multiple specimen handling and assay in the molecular biology laboratory and outlines the solutions currently available to address these difficulties. Designs for automatic systems to manipulate bio-samples and analyze DNA are presented.