I was innocent, but full of anticipation when, in 1972, I entered the biochemical laboratory as a brand-new apprentice in the field of medicine at the University of Leipzig. Fascinating – all these unfamiliar instruments and chemicals, and of course the white lab coat, and those smells: hydrogen sulfide and mercaptoethanol, mixed in with the scent of rat cage and the vapors of solvents…
The profession of laboratory technician seemed interesting, instructive and exciting – and impression was to be confirmed from the very beginning. Initially, however, there were some surprises. At that time, students in the GDR (Eastern part of Germany) viewed everything that came from the “West” with some suspicion – and now, here it was: an instrument by “Eppendorf Gerätebau Netheler und Hinz GmbH” from Hamburg!
The Eppendorf spectral line photometer became in the seventies my favorite instrument and my most important tool. Coinciding with the start of my career, the analytical field experienced a transition from “bucket chemistry” towards microliter-technology. In our area, too, glass pipettes and mouth pipetting gave way to novel modern air-cushion piston pipettes – from Eppendorf. Attempts at copying these pipettes failed, and the copies were not popular.
At the same time, the equipment and accessories needed to operate the novel Eppendorf reaction tubes were available: rack, shaker and heating block, as well as the automatic cuvette exchanger for the Eppendorf Photometer and the Eppendorf ThermoStat® used to control the temperature of the cuvette holder. Good methods for enzymatic analyses, for example, by Boehringer® (a registered trademark of Behringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG, DE.) Mannheim, were available, and this is how in those days we measured enzymes and substrate concentrations of thousands of blood and organ samples – with the help of analog (light) displays and lots of writing and calculating, in order to determine, for example, changes in extinction per unit of time. How lucky we were to be able to work under such excellent conditions.
After completing my apprenticeship and studies, I joined the Institute of Veterinary Medicine at the University, and in my new position, I was also responsible for the maintenance and repair of our instruments, as well as for the acquisition of parts. I was delighted to come across the familiar Eppendorf Photometer in 1980! This instrument, however, was much older – it had been purchased in 1964, and its casing appeared old-fashioned – anthracite-colored and with rounded corners. The purchase price is noted on the inventory card (figure 1): 13687.60 Mark of the GDR (German Democratic Republic). This instrument, which even had fluorescence measurement capabilities, accompanied me into the early 1990s.