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Technostalgia

Ahh, the good old days… when handling genome sequencing data was so much simpler – meaning it was astonishingly slow, required manual futzing, was not nearly as accurate, and cost so much more than everything out there today – weren’t they the best?

Although it is not in most dictionaries, 'technostalgia' is real, and David Roy Smith, of the University of Western Ontario, has contracted a case. Writing with a dewy-eyed (though somewhat tongue-in-cheek) nostalgia in Frontiers in Genetics, he summons up his days working with electropherograms.

"I sometimes see them in my dreams. The colorful peaks and troughs, the sharp, crisp waves spread across my computer screen, the rolling nitrogenous mountains, each with its own nucleotide sitting solidly on the summit," he writes.

He recalls spending "countless hours pruning, editing, assembling, and occasionally oohing and awing over Sanger sequences" as a grad student.

He says he would sometimes spend weeks or months waiting for that extra read to show up, and used to imagine what it would be like when he could get his hands on "a great number of sequencing reads" from whichever organism he was focused on at the time. Was he being naïve?

"Be careful what you wish for from the genome gods. The onslaught of next-generation sequencing technologies and the access to previously unfathomable amounts of genomic data have made me dizzy, disillusioned, and anything but efficient," he writes.

He says he has gone off on vacation only to return home and find his Illumina reads still haven't finished downloading.

"It's like a paired-end nightmare, a SOLiD pain in the neck, and a massively parallel migraine," he says of all the data clogging up his hard drive and external disks.