Field of Science

Strong Dislike of Technology

One tries very hard to be rational, and it's irrational to hate inanimate objects because that's too strong an emotion for a thing, but at times things can be very much disliked. The particular object of the Phactor's ire is the very inequitable rate of technological change and the realistic life spans of hardware. While universities may be places where cutting edge ideas are common place, cutting edge technology is another matter. There just isn't enough money to keep you caught up. Now take microscopes. My research microscope at 30 years of age still has excellent optics, but the proprietary camera system is now totally obsolete and very difficult to retrofit for digital photography. In an attempt to remedy such situations, and provide students with a means of digitally recording microscopic images, several modest digital camera systems are being considered, but there's a problem. The Windows based software on our campus is changing over to Windows 7 and virtually all 32 bit devices instantly have become obsolete because there are no 64-bit drivers for them and no one is going to write any since the industry wants you to buy new ones and where would anyone think that money is going to come from? So a 32 bit microscope camera is not so plug and play, and the poor consumer is caught in the middle. Even if a nice 64-bit camera comes on the market, most of my students will still have older operating systems on their laptop computers and so the 32-bit cameras would work for them, but then over the next 2-3 years it would gradually become unusable although still perfectly functional. Did the Phactor mention his excellent flatbed scanner was a 32-bit device and when forced to change his pc to the new operating system it became inoperative. So no good solutions present themselves and without the proper technical support faculty are largely left to deal with these things themselves (so much for the run education as a business fallacy) you spend several hours figuring all of this out to conclude you have no good solution.


Phil said...

No good for research-quality images, but my students quickly discovered that some mobile phone cameras can be used to take usable micrographs by just holding them over the microscope eyepiece.

The Phytophactor said...

Yes, digital cameras can take some pretty good images right through the occular, but trying to find something with a bit more sophistication. No luck so far.