Mar 23

We Live in the Future

Sure, I still want my jetpack and hovercraft, but we DO live in the future. In a talk I gave recently, I illustrated this position with few small examples of how far we’ve come.

When I was born, my father (an IBM programmer) used some cutting-edge computer technology to make my birth announcements. See images below.

keypunch

MFCUI love that acronym, “MFCU.” Sounds like something out of a 70s blaxploitation film.

How did he use these? He made birth announcements on 96-column punch cards in which the punches spelled out the word “BOY.”

announcement

In 1972, here’s what the cutting-edge of MEDLINE looked like to most users:

medline1972

According the NLM’s Janet Zipser, MEDLINE was the first remote access, real-time database in existence. By the end of 1972 about 150 libraries had access to MEDLINE® all at medical schools and research facilities. The rate was $6/hour, a 4-fold reduction over direct dial. The highest speed available was 30 characters/second. Most people had 10 characters/second Texas Instrument Silent 700s.

Please understand how amazingly fast people thought 30 characters/second was. Please also understand how that compares to today’s speeds:

downloadspeed

And now PubMed is available to everyone with an internet connection…for free. Anna Kushnir-type gripes aside, this is amazing.

I looked at what storage memory cost circa 1979:
storage1979

Compare that to the flash drive I keep in my pocket at most times:
flashdrive

The IBM 3340 Direct Access Storage Facility was introduced in March 1973 …Two, three or four 3340 drives could be attached to the IBM System/370 Model 115 processor — which had been announced concurrently with the 3340 — providing a storage capacity of up to 280 million bytes.

ibm3340

In order to match the storage capacity of my flash drive, this is how many IBM 3340s you’d need:
3340vsflash

In order to match the storage capacity of the laptop I was using at the time, this is how many IBM 3340s you’d need:
3340vslaptop

xkcd put it nicely:
xkcd

iTunes, as far as I can tell, has over 11 Million tracks.

But what brought this all to mind was something I stumbled across via PopURLs the other day:

http://i.imgur.com/y2Rurl.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/y2Rurl.jpg

We live in the future.

[EDIT]

Via Joe (http://friendfeed.com/jokrausdu), here’s what 200 MB looked like in 1970:

200 MBs in 1970

200 MBs in 1970

[/EDIT]

Mar 20

Unsolicited Answers to Rhetorical Questions

From something I saw in Facebook recently:

facebook3rdpartypubmedmedline

Q: Will NextBio do away with PubMed?
A: Absolutely not. In order to even have a chance at making PubMed irrelevant, a 3rd-party tool would have to be free. I believe I have played with the vast majority of 3rd-party PubMed/MEDLINE tools available (see this post category for details).

Q: …will Pubget do away with PubMed?
A: In some libraries for some users, PubGet will be a the preferred option. Will it make PubMed irrelevant? Good lord, no.

K adds:

Suspect they use PubMed to get their lit content, esp since they say they include all the full text from PubMed Central.

K is absolutely right. Both PubGet and NextBio get their data through NCBI API tools.

Now, if GoPubMed (free) did LinkOut and/or made PDF retrieval as easy as PubGet (free) does and marketed it well…that could threaten to make PubMed irrelevant.

However, PubMed makes the index of the world’s medical literature available to millions and it used worldwide as an essential healthcare tool. Ask yourself: Do you want to trust a private corporation to take good and ethical care of such an important public good? I don’t. I’d rather trust the NLM.

Mar 19

MEDLINE Trends, MEDSUM, Compare PubMed (3rd-Party PubMed/MEDLINE Tool)

Alexandru Dan Corlan made this nifty tool, MEDLINE Trend.

medlinetrend

From the site:

Examples of usage

  • To find out just how many papers have been indexed by PubMed every year, enter an empty query (simply press ‘Build Trend’);
  • To find the history of a subject, enter a few keywords describing the subject. For example, clopidogrel will tell you that discussion about this drug first appeared in 1987, was ocasional (under one paper a month) by 1996 and really took off in after 2000;
  • To make statistics of the languages of papers as indexed by PubMed and how they evolved in time enter something like fre[la] and you will see their number is geting reduced in time, despite the increase in the general number of papers, so the prevalence of papers in french in the database falls from about 10%, forty years ago, to less than 2% in 2004;
  • To see how many papers have been published in journals published in a given country year by year enter something like france[pl] and one can see that the number of biomedical papers published in France, indexed in Medline, is quite constant over the years, despite the previous statistics;
  • queries can be combined, for example:
    eng[la] france[pl]
    and you will see that a progressive number of papers published in france, but in english, are indexed by PubMed every year;
  • trying pitie-salpetriere[ad] will show you that, while the number of papers published from this famous hospital is increasing yearly, the fraction of these papers from all papers in PubMed in the respective year is relatively constant.

Trend analysis for “ulcerative colitis”
medlinetrendUC

[Via @laikas and @radagabriel]

MEDSUM
[via Mike G.]

http://www.medsum.info/

Here’s a graph of papers by year for the query “ulcerative colitis”
medsumUC
(Click image for full-size)

Compare-Stuff.com PubMed
(Previously mentioned here)
I just tried this again and I don’t think it works properly any longer. :(

I suspect I’m forgetting another tool or two that will do this. If you know what they are, let me know?