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Equine Winter 2006 (Vol 1, No 4)

The Editor's Desk: "The Good Old Days"

by James N. Moore, DVM, PhD

    The Good Old Days

    Sometimes when I'm telling my 14-year-old daughters about the way things used to be, I can see two words forming ever so slowly in their minds ... early Pleistocene. When I think about it, they might be right. For example, when I became a faculty member in the early 1980s, writing a paper or a grant proposal meant actually writing it with a pen or pencil on a yellow pad of paper. I can remember hiding out in a conference room with stacks of books and journals, scribbling my thoughts. Once that was done, I'd literally cut and paste the pieces of paper together so they made sense and then ask the department secretary to type it ... on a typewriter. No word processor. No saved copy. The original typed copy right there on the paper. When I had to make changes to the text, as was inevitable, virtually the entire paper had to be retyped. I'm pretty sure my daughters have seen a typewriter, but I bet they think typewriters are used only for addressing mailing labels. Now that I think about it, my daughters might be right again.

    Of course, writing changed when desktop computers arrived. The first ones were not very impressive. They had about as much memory as we do, the operating system had to be installed every time the computer was turned on, and we spent all day looking at mind-numbing green type on a black background. Presumably, those are some of the reasons that Tandy, Zenith, and Osborne aren't household names anymore.

    However, desktop computers begat dot matrix printers, which begat horrendously expensive laser printers, which finally meant that all writing, good or bad, immediately looked very impressive. Storage increased, graphic interfaces and millions of colors replaced green type, and prices came down. Through much of the early part of this process, communication was by mail or telephone, allowing those who live and die by deadlines to blame either the post office or the telephone company when we were late.

    When fax machines became commonplace, our world changed dramatically. On the positive side, a typed manuscript or proposal could be sent across the country or around the world through the telephone line. It was magic, and we wondered how we ever survived without it. However, the fax machine had its downside because it instantly exonerated both the post office and the telephone company when a deadline was missed. Gone forever was "It's in the mail" and the ensuing mad scramble to get whatever needed to be done finished and mailed. People on the other end of the telephone line simply said, "Fax me a copy. I'll wait by the machine until it arrives." Trapped, with no way out, there was no worse feeling.

    The other side of the good old days that we tend to forget was how difficult it was to keep up with the scientific literature. Obviously, there was no Internet, so literature searches had to be done by hand. Every month, university libraries received printed copies of Index Medicus and Index Veterinarius, which were bibliographies of the latest publications broken down according to specifically defined topics. When they arrived, they were already outdated, and many of the journals of interest to veterinary practitioners were not included. Nobody in their wildest dreams conceived of being able to instantly search the literature as you now can for all equine articles ever published in Compendium and Compendium: Equine Edition at www.compendiumequine.com. It's mind-boggling but commonplace these days.

    The good old days were, in fact, good, and I often miss them. This is certainly the case when a deadline has crept up on me and someone says, "Just email me a copy." Arghh! The trap slams shut again.

    I realize that I need to learn to reminisce less about the good old days—at least out loud. Otherwise, the day will come when one of my daughters will ask me if I ever had trouble stomach-tubing an eohippus.

    NEXT: Therapeutics in Practice: "Cholangiohepatitis, Suppurative Cholangitis, and Cholelithiasis"