back to article Digital pregnancy testing sticks turn out to have very analogue internals when it comes to getting results

A hacker has peered into a fancy digital pregnancy stick and found it is just a glorified analogue paper test strip with a screen added, a novel form of activation, and a larger price tag. Inspired by an earlier Twitter thread, hardware hacker (and floppy disc enthusiast) foone bought a pack of two digital pregnancy sticks for …

  1. b0llchit
    Paris Hilton

    Low tech is too old tech

    The moral of the story: if you you're trying to get pregnant, or not, the old ways are sometimes the best, or at least much cheaper.

    At least environmentally it is a real kicker. Plastics and electronics are nicely poor on the scale of environmentally sound. The trend of the time is to secure your as-yet-unborn child with a good head start at a large environmental footprint. And also, please make sure that the as-yet-unborn child is getting used to high tech requirements of modern times. Low tech is only for old people.

    (I heard that a smartphone for prenatal use is in the makes; implantable and complete with gaming and xflix subscriptions, including ads for the unborn child)

    1. quxinot Silver badge

      Re: Low tech is too old tech

      If you're genuinely concerned about the environmental impact of a small amount of plastic and electronics, then why are you making more children? Human overpopulation is the single largest environmental problem that exists.

      Stop blaming plastic, stop blaming the automobile. They're fine, in moderation. Start blaming the people who cannot consider making people in moderation.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        Reproduction is a fundamental part of humanity. It’s a powerful deep instinct and we are nothin literally nothing without it. To carry your argument to its full extent, why even bother living?

        1. Tom Chiverton 1

          Re: Low tech is too old tech

          Crumbs, so the infertile are inhuman, wow

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Low tech is too old tech

            Without coming down on the rights and wrongs of having more children, let's look at the actual levers:

            Top-down control of birth rates doesn't work very effectively (see India), it can have unintended consequences such as more boys being born than girls (see China), and in any case it would politically unworkable in many countries

            So, what does decrease birth rates?

            Better sanitation (which minimises disease and thus infant mortality), better health care (ditto), higher female education, female access to contraception and a culture in which women feel able to use it.

            Of course these points are themselves complex interrelated to resource consumption, but there's smart ways of doing things.

            For starters, let's not use an expensive, single-use lump of plastic and microcircuitry instead of a strip of paper. If all medical tests were performed so inefficiently, there would be no hope of bringing the healthcare of developing nations up to par.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Low tech is too old tech @Dave

              Unfortunately, decreasing the infant mortality does not in itself reduce population growth unless tied to education that large number of children is not desirable.

              Many people living in marginal environments have to have a lot of children because not all of them survive, and their children are their pension. But they don't necessarily make the link between these things themselves, it's ingrained in thier society. In these societies, having a large number of surviving children is a statement of high status, and this will not change overnight.

              Just allowing more of the children to live is not going to immediately reduce the family size, at least not until the 3rd or 4th generation. By this time, exponential growth as a result of more children reaching childbearing age will make the situation worse.

              In the long term, I do agree, but it's not enough in itself.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Low tech is too old tech

            @Tom Chiverton 1

            Crumbs, so the infertile are inhuman, wow

            What an absolutely crass response. The instinct exists in the infertile just as much as anyone, they go through hell and huge expense with treatments to try to conceive.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: Low tech is too old tech

              Sarcasm spotting isn't your strong point is it.

              No, thats not a question.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Low tech is too old tech

                If it were even relevant.

        2. Steve Graham

          Re: Low tech is too old tech

          "It’s a powerful deep instinct"

          As they say on Wikipedia "citation required". In fact, the consensus among psychologists seems to be that in humans there is no deep-seated desire to procreate. People do feel an irresistable love for their children when they are born though.

          I suppose if you're suscepible to social pressures, you might think you have an instinct to have children.

          1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

            Re: Low tech is too old tech

            By "procreate" do you mean "make babies" or "have sexual intercourse"? Speaking as a human, I have a much stronger desire to do one rather than the other. Of course the 'one' can sometimes lead to the 'other', although rarely if you're gay. ;o)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Low tech is too old tech

          > Reproduction is a fundamental part of humanity.

          As is killing one's rivals, taking from those weaker than ourselves, vengeance, tribalism, and war.

          What separates us from animals is that we are not mere slaves to our physiological urges. We are capable of restraining ourselves for the common good. It is through this self-restraint that we as a species have been are able to transcend our biology to create globe-spanning societies and civilisations.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Low tech is too old tech

            Restraint doesn’t mean that the desire is not there.

            And there is no way that the fulfilment of that desire to be a parent is peer pressure, that really is the ultimate daft.

        4. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Low tech is too old tech

          Nature and environmental changes keep population in check... Only we have defied the environment with medicine, prosthetics, pacemakers etc. We have also messed up the environment to provide enough to eat and for "unnecessary" things.

          We have bypassed the natural barriers to population explosion and keeping the population numbers sustainable and we produce more waste than we, or the planet, can currently deal with. We have taken the responsibility of population numbers and the balance of nature away from nature itself and it is now our responsibility to ensure we don't destroy the planet in the process.

      2. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        This is wrong. If we take carbon emissions as proxy for resource use (not perfect, but probably a good indicator) Germany use more resources than Africa. The problem is less how many people there are but that they all want our (I assume you are from an OECD country) living standards.

        I suggest you take the time to view some of the late Hans Rosling's videos.

      3. illiad

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        and stop blaming!!! this could even be a test to see if a termination is needed!!!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        Having children is fine; it's giving them stupid names (Jaxon, Alfie, Hero etc...) and not teaching them manners, boundaries and responsibilities that's the problem.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        I love this one. There are more than enough resources to go round and more than enough to make it environmentally friendly for the planet. However my learned friend there is no money to be made in that so it won't happen and so this will keep getting put forward as an excuse. Here's another thought, take out the military's of the world (Your mind would be blown if you knew how much they actually pollute) and guess what, the planet would probably need a lot less change than it does now and another added bonus is it solve the migration problems that stretch resources in certain places due to people displaced by war. As for the little changes you or I make they do count but will never solve the problem.

        1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

          Re: Low tech is too old tech

          Philosophy alert!

          It depends on what you mean by "enough resources to go round". Food, certainly, water yes (if we're reasonably careful), healthcare is a bit tricky, can we all have the same level of medical care available in the best US, German and Saudi Arabian hospitals? We just need to spread it all out a lot more, but as for the resources needed for the Western lifestyle, the last statistic I saw from the BBC* (other organisations are available) was we'd need between 2.5 and 4.4 planets.

          *https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33133712

          end philosophy alert

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Low tech is too old tech

            Once you remove capitalism or replace it with ethical capitalism that consumption and waste disappears. At the end of the day the one thing that will destroy us all is money not overpopulation.

      6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Low tech is too old tech

        "Start blaming the people who cannot consider making people in moderation."

        In quite a few advanced" countries, i.e. those with advanced consumer economies, reproduction is running below replacement level.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Low tech is too old tech

      I heard that a smartphone for prenatal use is in the makes

      Can just hear the whining, "My foetus can not play Fortnite on it's smartphone".

    3. fajensen Silver badge

      Re: Low tech is too old tech

      They need to do a Better Job: Push all of the dataprocessing to "The Cloud", make it very complex and power consuming so the data center can suck down all that Green Power so it is not used for anything baneficial and have crap security and be sure to let FaceBook leech the data generated, just in case.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All sensors are analog.

      All sensors are analog. All. Anyone who develops sensor technology knows this. If you have a "digital readout" it means someplace in the data chain an ADC was inserted. But at the beginning it's analog.

      In addition, chips to perform ELISA (which is what a pregnancy test does) costs a lot more than paper with inks on them, but they do exist. For example,

      https://europepmc.org/article/med/26164012

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: All sensors are analog.

        "All sensors are analog"

        <screws up face> Weeellllll, no, not all sensors. Single photon counters for example detect a single photon event and output a pulse (binary) signal.

  2. MatthewSt Bronze badge
    Paris Hilton

    Click to enlarge?

    Isn't that what got us into this mess in the first place?

  3. Rattus
    Unhappy

    Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

    Having a chemical test get interpreted by electronics using an optical sensor is not uncommon. A well calibrated system is considerably more deterministic than even the best trained human using a Mk I eyeball. So I am not in the slightest bit upset about using electronics to 'read' a chemical test strip (regardless of how easy it would be to do so)

    What is annoying is that the electronics are single use.

    Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?

    Looking at the PCB (as an electronics engineer by trade) it looks like the only thing preventing that from happening is that the mechanical design would need changing to allow strips to be replaced. Other than the fact you are going to pee on it, a simple slot on the end would be enough. Realistically this would need a transparent plastic over the optics (LEDs and LDTs by the look of things), I doubt that this would cost much more than a single additional plastic part, enabling the electronics to remain sealed against moisture ingress whilst still providing no external light path to the sensor area. The battery is probably good for several months without improving the electronics, so really there is nothing much else to do.

    Indeed I suspect that the original engineering would have been this sort of design.

    The real problem is that if you sell 1 reusable 'reader' and a set of test strips you don't make the same amount of profit, no matter where you sit in the supply chain...

    1. RM Myers Silver badge
      Headmaster

      "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

      I understand your annoyance, but there is no need to get all surly about the waste. Please, can't we at least maintain a good humor while commenting. Shirley that is not too much to ask.

      1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

        Re: "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

        Well, I expect someone could, but you'd need to clean it very thoroughly between uses, so not quite the same as simply removing a (soggy) strip of paper and inserting a (dry) one. The new strip would have to be inserted very carefully too, to make the sure the lines would appear in the correct places.

        As for the hard of seeing people, a magnifying glass might be an option, and more multi-use than an electronic wand. One with a speaker for the blind could be genuinely useful, and justify the use of electronics.

        1. Remy Redert

          Re: "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

          One of the things we had at the veterinary clinic I worked at was a strip reader for a multi-test urine strip. Dip strip in urine, wait 5 minutes, put strip in reader. Reader pulls the strip through and dumps it into the trash container.

          That thing came from human medicine and was probably 20ish years old. It was toaster oven sized. There wasn't much incentive to make them much smaller though.

        2. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

          The new strip would have to be inserted very carefully too, to make the sure the lines would appear in the correct places.

          Shouldn't be that difficult. Perhaps something similar to the blood glucose meters.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

            My blood glucose meter uses a rigid(ish) plastic strip which plugs into - and activates - the meter electronics. The end is held onto a pinprick spot of blood and capillary action takes a tiny sample of the blood along the strip to where the sensor (whatever that is) is. Electrical contacts from the device permit the magic to be done.

            It would seem that a similar system could perhaps encapsulate the sensor strip on the pregnancy test paper and hold the stripes under a sensor - but as pointed out elsewhere it's not obvious where the market would be, other than in a doctor's surgery or for someone trying to get pregnant and testing regularly.

            I suspect though that the most common use case might be - oh no, am I? Oh, thank heavens, no... (though as a married bloke whose kids came along with the package I am totally unqualified to speculate on that). And if someone is likely to find themselves having to purchase tests for that reason on a regular basis, they've perhaps got more immediate issues than worrying about wasting plastic - and perhaps they're not likely to consider multiple use testers.

            Because, hey, hundreds of times nothing happened at all, right?

            1. ThinkingMonkey

              Re: "Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?"

              Actually, all the magic happens on the glucose meter strip. Contrary to popular belief, blood gets nowhere within 100 miles (okay, 1/4") of the inside of the meter. I'm just noting that. I realize that you didn't say that it did. The meter itself just does a little computing and displays what the strip told it to say. Namely that the blood, which traveled by capillary action to a certain spot on the strip and reacted with an enzyme called glucose oxidase, produced gluconic acid. This is measured between two electric terminals (still on the strip) and that info sent to the meter which then determines the number to display to you, hopefully between 100-140 (used to be 90-120). - A fellow finger-sticker since 1990 :)

    2. johnfbw

      Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

      How many times are you planning on getting pregnant to need a non-reusable test?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

        Someone trying to get pregnant and testing each month to see if they succeeded sounds like a reasonable use case.

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

        And you do pee on them, so a reusable would also need to be sealed and cleanable.

      3. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

        How many times are you planning on getting pregnant to need a non-reusable test?

        A woman on a drug that holds in remission a long term or chronic illness, but is contraindicated for pregnancy, due to complications to maternal or fetal health. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and cancer drugs come to mind. Even the best birth control is not 100%, and some drugs (antibiotics for example) can interfere with contraception.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

      Surly we can come up with a similar device with replaceable strips?

      But that ruins all the digital single-use landfill magic.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

        > What is annoying is that the electronics are single use.

        Especially when the vast majority of users already own an optical reader - in the shape of a smartphone. Printing some coloured calbribration swatches along the edge of each paper test strip would give the interpreting app enough data to accurately determine the colour of the strip.

        If the user doesn't have a waterproof phone so feels wary of cleaning it water, then the test pack can include some sachets of isopropyl alcohol for sanitising the handset afterwards.

    4. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

      What is annoying is that the electronics are single use.

      I investigated this when the story broke some months ago -- El Reg is a bit late to the party here.

      I had hoped they were available at Poundland so potentially useful for hacking, but sadly not. Not cheap and, being a masked ROM microcontroller, no chance of reprogramming.

      I don't blame manufacturers of consumables for saving costs. It's manufacturers of things like games consoles which are designed not be repurposed once their primary-use lifetime is over which I have a greater problem with.

      I do wonder how many single-use and short-life products have their batteries land-filled; things like this and e-Fags are probably the biggest culprits.

    5. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Wastful - but unfortunaltly not uncommon

      I would argue that although there are problems (e.g. ensuring the unit is clean while removing the wet strip, and also ensuring the lines line up with the sensors as said above), I think given time and money, they could be resolved. I think the reason they haven't is profit. Even assuming they came up with some sort of cartridge system (which I suspect they would have to to solve the alignment problem), I doubt the profit margin on the cartridges would be high enough to justify the research. Especially when they can sell these single use devices for much more. Bear in mind that most women probably won't get pregnant or think they are often enough to justify the cost of buying a reusable pregnancy testing kit.

      Not saying these kits are good. They have their uses, but environmentally, single use electronics should be actively discouraged wherever possible.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's not yours"

    That's one hell of a thing to tell the woman who has just done the test...

    1. Andy Non Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "It's not yours"

      Alien abduction and implant. Or, invitro fertilisation and the lab got the eggs mixed up.

    2. EVP Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "It's not yours"

      Maybe the message is for the (presumed) father?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: "It's not yours"

        Why would a putative father being taking a pregnancy test?

        1. RM Myers Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: "It's not yours"

          That does sound fishy. Maybe he is some kind of a clown(fish)?

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "It's not yours"

      > That's one hell of a thing to tell the woman who has just done the test...

      It's twins!!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "It's not yours"

        "It's twins!!"

        And one of them's yours.

    4. all ears

      Re: "It's not yours"

      And if you look at the display closely, it looks as though they've inserted an apostrophe in a very unnatural place. I suspect shenanigans.

    5. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: "It's not yours"

      That's when she blames her no good cheating partner.

    6. skeptical i
      Angel

      Re: "It's not yours"

      Messiah, then? Was Jesus the product of Mary's ... equipment? Or did she merely (or "merely", pregnancy looks like more work than fun) carry The Son to term?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "It's not yours"

        Woman walks into a lawyers office stating I want a divorce.

        OK I need grounds, for example does he beat you or mistreat you

        No

        Hmmm ok is there any evidence of infidelity?

        Ohhh I think we have him there, three of the kids aren't his.

  5. The New Turtle
    Coat

    This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

    LFDs (lateral flow devices - the paper strip used in this test) are simple in theory, but get a human being involved and what *should* be simple and clear becomes variable, vague and uncertain. In most cases where there's a pregnancy then a nice clear line will develop, but sometimes it can be faint, or sometimes people will see a positive reaction where there isn't one. Attaching a simple detector with a pre-determined threshold (possibly matched to the batch of components used to create the LFD) will remove the uncontrolled human factor and will provide a more reliable result.

    FWIW I've had a little input into developing LFDs for other uses, and they can be a challenge for everyone to read. Lab coat obviously, because who'd risk spilling someone else's wee on their clothes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

      My wife "knew" she was pregnant before we'd even bought the tests! The tests were useful with the medical types though, who probably wouldn't be as willing to believe "I know" as "yes, we did a test".

      After the first one, she also got the sex correct each time; only the girls induced a mild morning sickness.

      The thing with this device is that the electronics seem like a good idea, but as has been pointed out, they add a lot of complexity and cost and waste for very little benefit. Perhaps, if identifying the blue lines correctly seems to be a problem for some people, the makers could instead market an "app". Print some targets on the paper stick to help with alignment, then take a picture using the app, and do some image recognition to produce a result.

      1. Diogenes
        Alien

        Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

        My wife "knew" she was pregnant

        The D-i-L was pregnant and & favourite no1 grandchild was talking to the baby every day. One day he stopped talking to it & the next day she miscarried (@ 10 weeks). Last week he started talking to the baby in her tummy again, and sure enough she is now 6 weeks.

        1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

          Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

          Very sorry to hear about the miscarriage. New Scientist recently published and article about miscarriages. They are much more frequent than realised, and seem to be due to the foetus lacking the ability to produce the correct chemical signatures:

          https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24732943-900-forget-about-blame-with-miscarriage-its-function-is-entirely-natural/

          Or hardcopy in 5th August edition form your local library.

          1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

            Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

            Correction, the article on miscarriages is in the 8th August issue of New Scientist, pages 40-43.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

          The still not quite Ex Mrs Oncoming Scorn went off the taste of tea for the boys.

          Apparently holding a threaded needle over the bump, if it goes around in circles it's a girl, back and forth it's a boy.

          My ex brother in law had a craving for pancake rolls every night, every time the EMOS sister was pregnant.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

            "My ex brother in law had a craving for pancake rolls every night, every time the EMOS sister was pregnant."

            But did he also have a craving for pancake rolls every night when she wasn't?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

        After the first one, she also got the sex correct each time

        How many children? If it were three then that would be (WRONG) (RIGHT) (RIGHT)

        It's going to be RIGHT 50% of the time by chance anyway, so I'm afraid her powers of sex determination are not proven.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

          We didn't think too much about the first one so it wasn't (WRONG) it was (PASS). By "after" I meant "after her experience of the first pregnancy the next one 'felt different' (whatever that means) so she came to the conclusion that the new baby was the other sex."

          So the sequence was (PASS) (RIGHT) (RIGHT) (RIGHT). Nothing of great significance; I was mentioning it as an interesting anecdote because no-one has managed yet to find a foolproof way of determining the sex of the baby short of medical procedures.

          1. stevebp

            Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

            Apparently, the flood of oestrogen when pregnant with a girl creates the "blooming" mother effect, conversely, the flood of testosterone with a boy causes spots and a more 'masculine-looking' face. If you're around pregnant women (you know well) a lot, you can spot this quite easily - it can be upended though by twins (non-identical) and situations where a girl gets a larger dose of testosterone than normal (apparently that's a "thing").

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

      In most cases where there's a pregnancy then a nice clear line will develop, but sometimes it can be faint, or sometimes people will see a positive reaction where there isn't one.

      This is why one should always use 3 (from different manufacturers) of such a cheap device when doing a pregnancy test.

      Never trust the results of a single strip.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

      > FWIW I've had a little input into developing LFDs for other uses, and they can be a challenge for everyone to read

      Is there any inherent reason why a smartphone camera and flash can't be used for determine the colour of the test strip?

      The test strip can be printed with colour calibration swatches, which an app can interpret.

      1. Throgmorton Horatio III

        Re: This device is far less unreasonable than it seems.

        "Is there any inherent reason why a smartphone camera and flash can't be used for determine the colour of the test strip?

        The test strip can be printed with colour calibration swatches, which an app can interpret."

        Probably the issue is down to reliability and consistency of smartphone cameras & flashes plus, once again, the human holding it not being able to judge the distance, angle etc from the strip. I'm sure a simple cardboard foldable jig could be generated for <$1 to solve the latter problems, but having to get the app passed by the various regulatory authorities around the world *for every phone type likely to be used* including dealing with those containing a faulty camera/light might be a little daunting.

        I can see why a maker would use a conventional technology that's fully under their control: the onus for reliability lays completely with the test manufacturer and there could be no getting away with "it should work fine most of the time". Diagnostic products are a bit like aeroplanes, and are treated as likely to cause life-changing harm if they fail.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Microcontroller, interfaced to display. You just know somebody's going to start hacking these to re-purpose them into some completely different gadget.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Maybe a moisture meter or a barcode reader.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or just wait a couple months. Que sera, sera.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Sure the process itself is great fun so why stop, but if you want to know when you have to stop drinking alcohol it's very useful.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    waste, waste, waste

    Here I sit wondering about what happens to my used toothbrush. and empty toothpaste tubes, and they are shoving RAM and boards into a single use device?

    Aren't there other ways of telling a woman is pregnant than peeing on a plastic stick? Like missing that time? Sick in the morning? Craving liverwurst and limburger cheese with onion sandwiches?

    1. Stumpy Silver badge

      Re: waste, waste, waste

      Hey! Lay off the hatred for liverwurst and limburger cheese with onion sandwiches.

      They're not the exclusive purview of potential mothers to be you know!

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Liverwurst, Limburger, and Onion.

        Indeed. A sandwich shop near IBM's Rochester MN offices has exactly that as a sandwich choice, under the title "OldTimer" (or some such. Long enough ago I don't know if IBM still has that location)

        My snarky young IBM guides suggested it to me. What could they have meant?

    2. Dagg

      Re: waste, waste, waste

      What about the Dibbly method, pee on a hamster and if it turns blue you're pregnant.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: waste, waste, waste

        The chances of Duane Dibley fathering a child are 10 to the power of my overdrafts.

  9. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Surprised?

    I’m not.

    When these things appeared on the market some years ago now, my first thought was “what a waste of money and materials”.

    Of course I didn’t get on my bike and publish a news article about it - so full marks to those that did (and none to me) by bringing this obvious wasteful nonsense to public attention.

    As for the “poor eyesight” argument, surely it’s not beyond the abilities of the manufactures to make the little blue line a bit bolder?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Surprised?

      "surely it’s not beyond the abilities of the manufactures to make the little blue line a bit bolder?"

      One of the first things you have to learn in biological science is accommodating to natural variability. There won't be some fixed number of micro-moles per litre to be relied on. I've no doubt the test strip manufacturers already have an optimal product.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Surprised?

        It needn't be bolder if it's bigger, or the background can somehow be made more contrasty. It's a long time since we used these tests, but I seem to remember that they weren't consistently coloured; one test had very clear blue lines while another had faint lines both for the "reference" and for the "indication". I can't imagine it would be difficult to make the lines thicker, or perhaps devise another shape - maybe concentric circles - where an outer circle is the reference, and the whole of the inside is the indicator. It would be easier perhaps for people to distinguish "doughnut" from "circle", though sometimes the indicator line isn't as bold as the reference line...

        Hmmm. If in doubt, an image recognition app, as I see two others have already suggested.

        And if you want to be absolutely certain, a test from the GP. You'll have to "book in" at some point anyway.

        M.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely this is obvious. How exactly did you expect it to work?

  11. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Too soon?

    The con is stupid people think the electronic version is more accurate, but stupid people can't read the strips without help.

    A better solution would be a Chilean rescue sniffer dog and a sensitive microphone to listen out for faint heartbeats.

    The global birth rate is rising but less quickly and it soon will be declining. We'll peak about 10 million. Consumption of materials is rising exponentially as everyone expects the lifestyle of YouTube personalities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too soon?

      > A better solution would be a Chilean rescue sniffer dog and a sensitive microphone to listen out for faint heartbeats.

      I think a better reusable solution would be to build it into those Super-Loo public edifices. You could have fruit machine style jackpot lights and bells.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Too soon?

        But would the celebratory bells go off if you are pregnant or not pregnant? Not everyone testing wants the same result.

        I had an AIDs test in 1986 and I had to phone the health centre for the results. It took forever which made me edgy. When the receptionist finally had the result she said "The test is positive."

        "Positive good or positive bad?"

        "I don't know, I'll need to ask the doctor. Can you phone back on Monday?"

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Too soon?

          Ooh, that's cruel. I hope it was good news in the end - though from the date and the fact that you are still with us, I suspect it was.

          My rather elderly dad has a regular "MoT" and being something of a worrier, the time between visiting the clinic and receiving the results of the blood (etc.) tests is a trying time for my mother. This year it coincided with lockdown and my dad couldn't visit the GP to get the results.

          So they telephoned. "I can't tell you that information over the phone". "But the surgery is closed, so how do you expect me to get the results?"

          In the end they relented and told him that there was "nothing to worry about" without telling him the actual numbers, but it was weeks before they would let my mum visit to pick up the results on paper. I don't think it occurred to them to post them.

          M.

          1. shade82000

            Re: Too soon?

            Seems a bit illogical to only worry between an MOT and the results. It's not like people are more susceptible to getting sick after a check-up, present times excluded. Makes more sense to either not worry ever, or worry every day of your life. But try explaining rational thought to most humans ...

    2. Lotaresco Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Too soon?

      "We'll peak about 10 million"

      You need these "000"

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Too soon?

        I was just talking about Scotland. No, joking, good catch.

  12. Christopher Reeve's Horse Silver badge
    Coat

    Doomed

    I'm sure I saw something about this pregnancy tester being modified to run Doom. Now that, is taking the piss!

    1. Martin Howe
      Go

      Re: Doomed

      Foone has done this and tweeted about it: https://twitter.com/Foone/status/1302820468819288066

    2. Stumpy Silver badge

      Re: Doomed

      PC Gamer have an article on it <a href="https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/heres-doom-running-on-a-pregnancy-test/" target="_blank>here</a>

    3. GreggS

      Re: Doomed

      Come again?

      Not exactly running on the pregnancy test hardware though. They've changed the CPU & display and stuck them back into the stick casing. That's like putting a modern PC's innards into a ZX81 and saying i've got the latest Flight Simulator running on it.

  13. Lotaresco Silver badge
    Coat

    Way back in the mists of time <wavy lines> ...

    I used to work for a medical diagnostic company making, among other things, professional quantitative pregnancy testing systems. These were very expensive, around £30,000 each. They were recognised as industry-leading systems and used as a reference source by international standards organisations. Yet, at the centre of all the expensive electronics was a small plastic cell that developed a colour change from clear to pink. That is the basis of an enzyme immune assay (EIA). Does this mean that the $30K was wasted money? Not if you were running a lab in a busy hospital. The automated system is reproducible, reliable and has greater throughput than a human being. Most testing systems are analogue in nature. The digitisation happens when a sensor reads a value and presents it as a number for analysis. Which is what is happening in this case.

    I'm not sure why the surprise and why the handwaving. Was the author expecting a Maxwell's Demon based system where an imp counts the actual molecules of hCG then types them into a very small keyboard?

    I'm putting on my labcoat.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Way back in the mists of time <wavy lines> ...

      "The automated system is reproducible, reliable and has greater throughput than a human being."

      And doesn't require a steady supply of female toads. (Yes, that was the basis of testing decades ago.)

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