Ancient X-ray machine reawakened, for science

X-ray tech is more a hundred years old, and doctors in The Netherlands have powered up an old machine and compared it with a modern one. It stands up well--if you don't mind the radiation.

The old machine's image (left) and a modern machine's image (right). RSNA/Radiology

We're still not at the place where we can have real-time X-ray video like in "Total Recall," but that doesn't mean X-ray technology hasn't come a long way in the last 116 years.

To underline that point, researchers in the town of Maastricht in Holland have fired up an X-ray machine from 1895 and compared it with a modern machine.

As you can see in the photos to the right, things have gotten sharper. The original device was built by a local educator and doctor just weeks after the first "how to" on X-ray machines was published. It was found in a warehouse and then dusted off by researchers from Maastricht University Medical Center who wanted to show it off.

The old machine was originally produced and built in the Dutch town, and the team didn't just turn it on, they replicated as closely as possible the conditions that would have been available and used by doctors of that time.

But it's not just the better-looking images that make modern X-ray machines better, according to the BBC, but also the fact that they use 1,500 times less radiation, making them safer and cheaper. The machine wasn't just fired up for fun, but for science, by doctors who chronicle their findings in the journal Radiology.

Still, that doesn't mean that we can look down at the venerable old Dutch machine. If you hadn't been told that the image on the left came from a Victorian-era machine, would you have been able to tell? Probably not.

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