Then and now…

Then and now…

then and nowImagine, in the beginning, when calculators, computers, digital cameras and horror of horrors, mobile phones didn’t exist. Indeed, if you had a telephone it came attached to a house by a long black cable and the only thing you could do with it was make a telephone call.

Only 3 channels on TV!

Imagine also there being only 3 television channels to watch, in black and white of course, with no chance of recording a programme in the unlikely event of a clash as even an affordable, commercially available video tape recorder was a futuristic dream by some years.

CD and DVD were just letters

stylus in record groove. 80001165

CD and DVD were just letters of the alphabet, digital and binary were terms used solely by academic mathematicians who could only cope with two numbers and the nearest thing to software was hardware, a shop down the road that sold coal shovels. Nor would you have a computer or tablet on which to read this. A place of nightmares for most early 21st century youngsters who find it impossible to live without their mobile phones, iPads and Xboxes. No, this was not millions of years ago when dinosaurs ruled the world, it was how life was in 1965 on planet Earth.


electric razor
Electric razor detail. 80019148

However, during those dark mediaeval times, the Telegraph newspaper published a colour supplement magazine with photographs the likes of which had never been seen before by the general public. A dentist’s drill looking like something a car mechanic might use; a length of double-coiled cable that might have once adorned a hair drier, in reality a filament from a light bulb; a shaft of beard hair resembling the trunk from a New Zealand tree fern and a piece of trawlerman’s net that turned out to be the knitted fibres of a nylon stocking.

It was inspirational!

The images astounded many and certainly fired the imagination of a youngster I once knew to try and follow some form of scientific career. All the micrographs had been produced using a new type of microscope, the first commercially available scanning electron microscope (SEM), manufactured by Cambridge Instruments and marketed as the Cambridge Stereoscan.

…and now

Velcro hooks. 80016907

The micrographs were stunning and certainly hard won though by modern standards now appear dated. These days the use of scanning electron micrographs to illustrate or enhance many a literary work is commonplace and almost obligatory but the age of digital photography has to a considerable extent and much regret, devalued their status.

Of little value

With so many of the population owning a digital camera (or perhaps more accurately, an image capturing device) in one form or another ready to ’snap’ the most trivial of subjects, the average person now attributes little if any value to most images. The work and expertise required to produce any high-quality image is lost or ignored. A consequence of this is that many images are being stolen and freely distributed over the worldwide web without any consideration of copyright, the work or even the cost having gone into producing them.

Group of human chromosomes
IMAGE REF: 80200675

Left is an image of human chromosomes cultured, extracted and isolated from leucocytes (white blood cells). Cost to produce, over £1,000 in consumable supplies and many hours of complex work, these images are a far cry from a simple ‘snap’ taken with a point-‘n’-shot mobile phone camera or something similar.


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7 Replies to “Then and now…”

  1. It is pages like this that will spread the word. In our day of “image capturing devices,” you forget that not every picture is a click away. Nice article. I enjoyed the read.

  2. I love reading this. It brings back many memories. Especially the black and white TV with ONLY 3 Channels! Lol… Now, we have too many channels to choose from.

    As you mentioned, can’t imagine how the youngsters (my kids) spend their days without their gadgets.

    During my time, mostly spent outdoors, taking in nature. Now, kids spend indoors, taking in radiation.

    Thank you. Your article made my day!

  3. Thank you for your comments Sharon.  It is indeed a different world now, not always for the better I fear.  If you do manage to get the kids outside and show them the beauty of nature, perhaps they will be inspired and go out more often!  Mum could show them a thing or two that doesn’t involve an x box or an i pad!!  

  4. Hi Kyle and thanks for the your comment. It’s good to know you appreciate the effort that goes into acquiring specialized images such as those from our Scanning Electron Microscope.

  5. It is pages like this that will spread the word. In our day of “image capturing devices,” you forget that not every picture is a click away. I haven’t really thought about this before and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Hopefully this article brings new appreciation and respect to the ones that create these images. Nice article. I enjoyed the read.

  6. I loved this post, really amusing and made me feel quite nostalgic for those good ol’ days. Fancy having a house attached to a phone. Life seemed so much quieter and less rushed than now. And as for the photography side of things, yeah, no-one takes any pride in taking a photo these days, just get out a phone and snap rubbish to fire up to facebook. It’s all so disposable now. David Bailey must be turning in his grave, well he would if he was dead. Keep up the good work as there are still those of us who appreciate the finer things in life.

  7. Hi Stewart and thanks for your comment about the post and bygone days. I’m really gratified that some of you are still out there, taking pride in the images you produce, even if they are from your mobile phone. It seems so inane to me to take a picture of everything and anything, even the washing on the line, (my sister-in-law) or the toast and marmalade you had at breakfast when at a hotel. David Bailey may not be dead, but I bet his tearing his hair out!

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