In keeping with the Throwback Thursday social media meme, today's a perfect time to reflect on the past in terms of the various diabetes technologies I've used (or been subject to) over my 30 years with type 1 diabetes.
This has been on my mind a lot lately, given that we are hosting the third-ever DiabetesMine D-Data ExChange gathering today in Palo Alto, CA, followed by the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit tomorrow (I'm traveling to California for these happenings!).
So yes, I'm thinking about the diabetes tech of yesteryear, appreciating how far we've come in the past 30 years and where we're rapidly headed now, almost 15 years into this 21st century. And recently, I found myself digging through the diabetes history timeline while compiling some materials for the local diabetes camp organization I'm a part of.
Ironically, this reflection comes at a time when I'm diving headfirst into the deep end of futuristic D-tech. As reported recently, I rigged up my Nightscout setup a few weeks ago to get connected to CGM in the Cloud. This adventure has sure made me aware of all the advances on the D-tech front since my diagnosis in 1984, and especially since my mom's T1D diagnosis in 1958 (!)
It still isn't flawless, but when you really think about it, you too will surely be amazed at all the progress...
Back in those early days when we first had a home glucose meter in our house, neither my mom and I relied on fingersticks that were relatively new at the time (I was just 5 years old, keep in mind). No, the more common standard early on was Tes-Tape, created by Eli Lilly. I'm not sure that I used this much after the early '90s, but I've managed to hold on to one container that has a 1987 expiration date. :)
My first meter was about the size of a brick and weighed three-quarters of a pound. I don't have many memories of using it, but judging by what was available at the time of my diagnosis and the few fuzzy snapshots in my mind, I'm guessing it was either the original Glucometer from the early 80s or possibly the Glucometer II, which in 1985 was the first-ever to have a memory function. Yep, these early devices actually had "Glucometer" as their proper names, which of course has since become a generic term not tied to any particular brand or style. I don't have either meter anymore, but found these photos of the Glucometer and Glucometer II online:
Both meters were made by the Ames Division of Bayer back in the mid-1980s and came on the market right around the time I was diagnosed. I have always appreciated the incredible piece of reporting our friend David Mendosa did back in the late 90s on glucose meter history, and from that I remember learning that Ames was actually a part of Indiana-based Miles Laboratories until it was bought by Bayer in '79 (same year I was born!). They had made the first meter back in the late '60s, and so by the time I came on the scene this was where we were at. This was the personal meter that both my mom and I shared at home, and back then of course it wasn't portable so didn't travel with us to school or work the way meters do today.
Ah yes, and who remembers those guillotine-like Autolet lancing devices we had way back in the '80s? Yep, that was another fun one from those days that made most of us shudder! Same with those early needle injectors that I used, which I nicknamed the "shotgun" because that's what it felt like first thing in the morning -- cold steel that you'd cock to blast the needle into your skin.
At least these models didn't last too long, becoming more finger and skin-friendly as the years went on!
As far as meter portability, it wasn't until the early '90s that I found a meter I could carry to and from school (sometimes). That was LifeScan's One Touch II, made back in 1992. It was historic in itself as it was the first to eliminate the need to time your blood drop on the strip and remove it before a reading would display. And the result came up within 45 seconds, which was lightening-quick back then! It had a plastic flip case that housed the meter and the full-size pen lancing device, a little like a notebook-and-pen combo for school. I carried this meter with me in a black zip-up case to school for quite some time:
But because I was getting into my teen years and just didn't want to check my sugars, I often didn't bother whipping my meter out in public. This was a significant time in the world of D-tech, as thankfully meters really began to shrink in the '90s.
A novel little Bayer meter called Dex that came out in the late '90s changed the game for me, as it actually fit my world as a teen on the go! Shaped like a little handheld circle that had a 10-strip disc inside, you didn't have to go through the motions of inserting and removing a strip for each test. Instead, you just slid a little push-lever to slide the strip out for use. This meter hit the market in 1997, just about the time I was graduating from high school, and I used the original version and later the second-gen Dex 2 meter for years after that. This was my go-to meter pretty much until a year or two after college when I started on an insulin pump, and had the option to turn to a meter that could magically communicate with my pump! (see below)
Yes, enter the Medtronic MiniMed 508 as my first-ever insulin pump. Remember, there were only two companies selling pumps at the time in the late '90s and early 2000s -- MiniMed and Disetronic; then MiniMed merged with Medtronic in 2003 and Disetronic sold its pump business to Roche, which eventually became the Accu-Chek Spirit pump. Amazingly, the MiniMed 508 wasn't all that different-looking from what we have now...
If you think back, this was also the tech down-time before iPods hit the market in 2001, when Palm Pilots and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) were all the rage. Actually, TheraSense and Freestyle in 2002 tried to tap that market with a diabetes digital assistant of their own: the TheraSense FreeStyle Tracker, which combined a silver PDA with a black meter gadget that fit onto the backside and allowed you to not only test but also track sugars and log other data. Revolutionary, back then!
But that didn't last long. I loved my Palm, but carrying around two different devices was a pain... and it turns out that was just a sign of the times leading into the smartphone generation, where we're STILL trying to consolidate devices and push for interoperability.
Medtronic made me happy in 2003 when my newly-upgraded Minimed 512 pump started talking to my glucose meter, which at that time was a BD Link meter before the company paired up with OneTouch and eventually went to Bayer a couple of years ago. That wireless communication between devices has shaped my view of D-tech in the past decade, especially now as I've embraced the Dexcom G4 continuous glucose monitor and am connected to CGM in the Cloud. It's impressive seeing how far Dexcom has come in just a few years -- with increased accuracy, easier calibrations, and of course redesigning its egg-shaped receivers to be more consumer-friendly with a sleek iPod-like look and feel.
We are now officially in the "Smartphone Gen" of diabetes devices. These days, it's pretty much the norm for devices to be somehow compatible with phones and apps; yet it's still questionable whether using all these gadgets is worth the time investment for patients. That's a work in progress.
I am personally happily geeked-up myself to finally be able to see my current CGM readings and trends displaying on a Pebble smartwatch. I love that we're here, and the whole #WeAreNotWaiting movement has taken shape to bring these concepts to the forefront even as device makers and regulators do their thing. I'm excited about the prospects coming soon; in the next year or so we'll likely see a CGM sensor that talks directly to your smartphone and other devices, bringing all of this data together in whatever place you want to see it. Now that's progress.
Yes, we have a long ways to go still, but you can't deny that we've come far and it feels like we're on the cusp of major game-changing devices coming to our D-lives very soon.
On this Throwback Thursday when about 85 innovators and decision-makers are gathered in Silicon Valley at the Fall 2014 DiabetesMine D-Data ExChange event to talk accelerating change in diabetes devices and how they work, it makes me almost giddy to look back on my past three decades with diabetes, and think about what's next.
Via la #WeAreNotWaiting !