Thursday, June 23, 2005

Technology Then, Technology Now

Man certainly is a clever beast. Of all the organisms that evolved out from the primordial slime, man alone has developed the most resourceful and ingenious means of saving labor and advancing progress, thus assuring his rightful place of supremacy on this planet. I think it’s fitting to marvel at what we’ve done, to view the steps leading up to this technological achievement or that, and congratulate ourselves. Everybody who has lived for more than two decades can immediately think of instances in their own lives where they were affected by technological breakthroughs. In my field of graphic design, I’ve seen the computer change everything. We went from T-square and triangle to the keyboard and mouse, from copy casting, ruling pen and airbrush to QuarkXPress, FreeHand and Photoshop. Things constantly evolve, old notions are continually challenged, accustomed ways become antiquated overnight.

As fascinating as it is to contemplate where we are, I think it’s equally interesting to consider what we used to do when we didn’t have the conveniences of today. For example, before there were calculators, there were slide rules. My father, who was a civil engineer, used a slide rule, and watching him solve math problems with it made you think of a conjurer performing some sleight of hand. Modern aircraft come equipped with a battery of onboard computers, global positioning instruments and so on, but doesn’t knowing what we have now make you gape at Lindbergh’s incredible feat of crossing the Atlantic in what was essentially a flying gas tank steered by a stick? As we peer down through the ages, it’s so easy to romanticize how things were done, the art involved, like navigating wind-powered ships by the stars or building pyramids without modern cranes or earth-moving equipment. Taken to an extreme, it’s easy to imagine a conversation two cavemen might have had after the invention of the wheel, where one turns to the other and says, “Sure, now anyone can move massive boulders from one place to another, but remember what a great dragger Og used to be?”

I bring this up because last night the Fox Movie Channel aired a vintage science documentary that showed how microsurgery was done way back in 1966. Now remember, this occurred long before arthroscopy, CAT scans or MRIs, and any of the minimally-invasive surgical techniques that are available today. The film, aptly entitled Fantastic Voyage, revealed an incredibly inventive way one medical team found to perform brain surgery on a cellular level. That’s right, on a cellular level, and we’re talking nearly forty years ago!

Apparently in 1966, medical science lacked the technology to make such operations possible with the team working from outside of the patient’s body, so they cleverly got around that problem by putting the staff into a submarine, miniaturizing them all to microscopic size and injecting them into the patient’s bloodstream. The only hitch to this technique and the reason why it’s not still used today is that you only have an hour to get the operation done before the patient’s natural defenses attack the sub and its tiny crew. But what an adventure that must have been! During that hour, many things went wrong, but the plucky crew found ways to get around them and successfully complete the operation. Among this pioneering staff, the member who I thought really distinguished herself was Dr. Raquel Welch. For some reason, the filmmakers seemed to concentrate more on Dr. Donald Pleasance as the bright light of this talented company of medical professionals, which I think is a strong comment on how women were viewed back then, because clearly Dr. Welch and not Dr. Pleasance was the one to watch. He constantly overruled her well-considered scientific comments with his own pompous remarks, but, even more irritating, he had a way of blocking my view of her at every possible moment, especially when she leaned over to work the finely calibrated instruments aboard the sub. Midway through the documentary, nearly all the team had to work outside the submarine to make repairs. Seeing Dr. Welch remove her white coveralls to expose the skin-tight wetsuit underneath really made me sit up and take notice. What a physician! When I get a chance today, I plan to scan the online medical journals to see what contributions this fine woman has made since 1966. I’ll also check to see if there are any lifesize cardboard cutouts of her as well, as I find her mere presence so inspirational. Especially in that wetsuit.

18 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Amazingly, they were still using that technology in 1987 when Lt. Dennis Quaid was miniaturized and injected into Martin Short.

7:11 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Yeah, the technique probably became outmoded in the early 1990s. Fascinating how they used to do things back then though.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Martin Short? The guy from Captain Ron? If he had had that surgery-we would have heard about it-made a movie about it or something. Knowing him it probably was an accident-like he sat on the needle or something- anyway.

7:58 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Well, it must still be used today. My mommy says that's how women get pregnant.

8:55 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Well, it must still be used today. My mommy says that's how women get pregnant."

I would never disagree with your mother, no matter how storks it pisses off.

Henry: Martin Short is alive today because of the heroics of Lt. Quaid. Of course, nowadays a simple Advil would have fixed him up. We just didn't know that back then.

10:29 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

I love technology, but I think it is the major cause of most stress. I remember reading somewhere that back when they first invented computers, they were talking about what life would be like using them and figured that they would cut our work week in half! That because using a computer was faster, we could get the same amount of work done in less time and therefore have the rest of that time to do whatever we wanted. Never occured to them that the greedy bastards in the corner office would rather we used that extra time to do more work....

end of rant.

12:41 PM  
Blogger trinamick said...

They never mentioned the bitterness computers would lead to either.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

What a great blast from the past. Thank you!

5:02 PM  
Blogger Irb said...

I never actually met Raquel Welch, but if I did, I would say, "Honey, were you miniaturized and injected into my brain? Because you've been running through my mind all day!" And then she'd laugh, and we'd go do it.

You make me giggle, Mr. Schprock! I can only hope that, one day, we'll be on a first name basis...

6:29 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"…and figured that they would cut our work week in half!"

They were saying that when I was a wee lad too, which was roughly back in the Mesozoic. All that time on our hands was supposed to be a problem.

Mona: Always glad to oblige

trinamick: embrace the technology . . . and slowly crush it.

Irb: That's smooth! Ask trinamick about her dad's pick up line.

7:05 PM  
Blogger 'Thought & Humor' said...

We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose. A
time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
Howdy
Editor
http://ilovehowdy.blogspot.com/

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison."

'Thought & Humor' by Howdy
Cyber-Humor, Cyber-Thought
Cyber-Riddles for your divertissement!!!

7:21 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Thanks Howdy!

3:58 AM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

Wurl, that's a tough act to follow...!

I wanted to say, y'know, computers are a bit like guns. Computers don't stress people. People use computers to stress people.

But, hey, people use 'em to love people up too, so they're nothing like guns at all. :o)

2:36 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Don't forget they shot a movie once called "Love is a Gun." And wasn't that a John Lennon lyric too? So maybe the gun-computer thing still holds.

6:06 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

I think it's Happiness is a warm gun. Maybe...

8:45 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Exactly right, nypinta.

11:07 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

I thought Happiness was a Hershey's bar? Apparently, guns and chocolate are similar as well.

1:09 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Especially the ones with nuts.

2:17 PM  

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