They don’t make ’em like they used to. Or at least, they don’t name ’em.
Harry and I recently stumbled across this beauty when we were clearing out some of the side rooms in our new lab space.
Allow me to present the Labofuge 6000. Lab-o-fuuuuuuuge. Six thousand, baby. Making it sound as if 5,999 previous models had culminated in this one specimen of spinning, thrumming perfection. Exactly the sort of silly name I was lampooning in my second novel when I named a fictitious bit of kit the “Interactrex 3000″.
What leaps out at you about the Labofuge 6000? It’s big. It’s solid. It’s no-nonsense. It’s got an awesome 180-degree analogue dial thingie, so you know exactly where you stand – none of this digital nonsense. It was made, I am reliably informed by the internets, back in the early ‘Eighties. 1981, to be precise. In 1981, the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” was number one in the UK for five straight weeks; across the Pond, the longest running number-one single on Billboard‘s Hot 100 was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. Yes, when the Labofuge was in its prime, I was wearing leg-warmers and rah-rah skirts, getting snubbed by boys who didn’t like girls who knew the answers in class, and was consoling my hurt feelings by losing myself in all the amazing things I was learning in my first serious biology class. I believe it was also the year I was voted by my classmates “Most Likely To Become A Scientist” (which I’m pretty sure was not meant to be a compliment).
But back to the present. As with all the other crap Harry and I have found lying around under decades of dust, we plugged it in and gave it a spin. (Sorry.) We’re not flush with cash, and neither are we proud. But alas, the Labofuge 6000 was not destined to join our fleet of ancient, second-hand workhorses. When we switched it on, the rotor shuddered into life without us having touched any of the dials and began spinning so fast that the entire body rattled and quaked and slowly started to inch its way off the bench. Fortunately, Harry managed to yank the plug, HAL-like, before it crashed onto the floor. Yes, like all the other clapped out fridges, incubators and miscellaneous apparati we’d inherited, the poor Labofuge 6000 had been abandoned for good reason.
Shame. I have a thing about old lab equipment. The new stuff can be downright annoying. Take our brand-spanking-new shaking incubator. If you want to change the rotation speed, instead of simply turning a dial up or down to the desired setting, you have to press five different buttons in the right sequence and then enter a three-digit code. The people who design these things obviously don’t have to use them on a daily basis. I wish I’d had a chance to see the Labofuge in action more than thirty years ago. I’m sure she left all her competition in the dust.