Today Ed Bott wrote an article reminiscing about his computer hardware collection ten years ago. IN the article he describes an inventory of what he had, which reminded me of a spreadsheet I made in 1997. I was trying to convince my boss to implement computers into our dental office. Just 12 years later computers, digital x-rays, intraoral cameras, video education systems, and more are the standard. Back then, though, it was a steep hill to climb.
After doing some comparison shopping, I recommended that we get a system from Intrex. It featured a 200MMX Pentium processor, 4.0 GB HD, 32MB of RAM, a 24X CD-ROM drive, 33.6Kbps Fax modem, and 1MB of video memory. Total cost: $1,330. This was a system that was fairly middle-of-the-road in performance and price.
Price was a huge factor, because that $1,330 only included the CPU. Also recommended: 15” monitor ($230), Iomega Ditto Tape Backup Drive ($170), 6 Ditto Tapes ($120), Windows 95 ($100), HP 6Pse Laser Printer ($800), HP ScanJet 5pse ($300), Microsoft Office ‘97 ($480), and a $30 surge protector.
The total cost of this workstation was $3,560. After adding in the dental software which cost somewhere in the $10,000 range, my boss balked and the practice remained computer-free long after I left.
That was a different era. I was busy trying to score on NHL ‘97 with my 40MHz desktop machine. Email was becoming popular, and Juno was the first to offer it for free. The internet was text-only, and download speeds of 56K were expensive. Removable media meant 3.5” “floppies”, and digital cameras where thousands of dollars. Portable music players were CD players that skipped with much motion, and to record TV, it meant finding a blank space on a tape, and going through your VCR’s cryptic on-screen programming sequence. Music subscription meant the $6 Music Choice service that Time Warner had available only through the services of a separate tuning box.
That was just 12 years ago, a blink of an eye compared to the 44-year drudgery of dental school. Where will we be in 12 more years? Progress will continue, and we’ll one day laugh at today’s isolated DVRs, movie rentals, cell phones, reliance on powerful PCs, “slow” internet speeds, and possibly streaming network TV.