|Ain't she a beaut? Many thanks to UC Santa Barbara Mass Spec Facility website for having a good picture of one of these.|
This HP GC/MS was my first, being the one used in labs at my undergraduate institution. Perhaps my memories of this are tinged by nostalgia. Maybe from that one time my classmates and I sat in the lab, slowly and inadvertently getting buzzed off of fumes from the chloroform bottle we accidentally left uncapped on a hot spring afternoon in the small mass spec room with the door closed. Ah... memories.
But it was a good machine. Not too finicky. Relatively easy to troubleshoot. Minimal software problems since it wasn't run by a computer (the computer just recorded whatever data it spat out). Also, using a chemistry instrument from the same company that made your dorm-room printer was pretty cool.
A close runner-up for me as memories go is this beast:
|It looks like this one is still running at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Robust.|
In contrast to the HP GC/MS, the Varian SpectrAA-20 was a constant pain in the ass to use. We had one in undergrad, but the one I spent the most time on was in the undergrad inorganic/analytical lab of my graduate school, where I spent many hours as a TA. I was constantly trying to keep it functional - cleaning the burner, swapping out parts with an out-of-commission twin instrument, aligning the lamp, replacing tubing, altering the experiment on the fly when the lab's last iron/nickel/copper/cobalt lamp burnt out.
But I loved it. I, as a lowly, untechnical first-year grad student, could understand it's inner workings. It had a cool open flame that impressed the students (because, you know, fire). It ran it's programming off of a 5.25 inch floppy! This was in the 21st century, mind you. Most students at the time had never used a "floppy" floppy disk before. Also, it was always connected to a dot matrix printer which constantly jammed from mis-aligned 20 year old fanfold paper.
This instrument was almost as old as I was and it was still completely functional (with a little elbow grease, mind you). And when I first used the GC/MS, HP wasn't even making scientific instrumentation anymore. It may still be in use at my alma mater today.
I contrast these two instruments with today's where it seems as though I'm always trying to get software or firmware patches or updates, mediating fights between the instrument and whatever computer operating system we're using, or discovering unexpected hardware problems that require a service call to diagnose and repair (with a software patch workaround typically).
Have I become that nostalgic already? I'm only in my early thirties. Is it too late to get these new-fangled instruments off of my lawn?
If you have any instruments of yore (or modern instruments) that you cherish, leave a fond rememberance in the comments.
I'll try to put a picture of any instruments mentioned in the comments or on twitter for nostalgia's sake. If I put the wrong thing, or you know of a better visual example of an instrument, let me know.
Chemjobber mentioned an aural love of the HP 1100 HPLC on twitter:
.@Andrechemist talks instrument nostalgia: http://t.co/FEDU8mkvkx | grew up on an HP 1100 HPLC, loved the sound
— Chemjobber (@Chemjobber) July 26, 2013
Here's what the internet says he's talking about (sans sounds):
|Picture of an instrument at the University of Oklahoma's Mass Spec Facility.|
An anonymous commenter mentioned a Guilford Response Spectrometer, something I'm not familiar with, but the pictures jive with the commenter's nickname of the instrument being "big blue":
|A few of these available for purchase from various used equipment websites. Get this one on ebay.|
|Picture source: USFMASP|
[picture under repair]
Update: Derek found a great picture and posted a link at his blog. It looks similar to the NMR I used throughout undergrad. I loved the built-in plotter.