Thursday, December 27, 2007

Automatic and Manual

Automatic methods are good: they accomplish a task for you. Manual methods are twice better: you have the job done _the_way_you_like_it_ and, at the same time, you are acquiring a skill.
If you have ever tried to shim a magnet, you know that manual adjustments can be discomfortable. For example, shimming an aceton solution is not as simple as shimming a DMSO solution. Trimming Z1 alone is simple, but optimizing 10 gradients is more time consuming, to say the least, etc... In summary, there are many reasons why manual methods can become unpractical: long reaction times; mutual dependence of the parameters to be adjusted; extreme distance from the optimum; weak response.
These reasons have often been removed, in the field of NMR processing. Twenty years ago, when there weren't so many automatic methods, manual processing was painful and time consuming, but there was no alternative. Today's programs are so automatic that don't even ask you if you want your spectrum processed. They do it and that's all. Vendors say they save your "precious time". How much time? Not more than 1 minute, I guess.
Manual methods remain more flexible and precise. Thanks to faster computers, (rare) faster software, improved graphics and peripherals and increased knowledge, the reasons why manual methods used to be cumbersome and frustrating have been removed. Tomorrow's manual processing has little to share with past experiences... unless nobody cares. And it seems that nobody cares! Automatic methods have far more marketing potential, that's for sure.


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