Microarrays are nothing without their scanners, the instruments that extract the array's data in computer-readable form. Steve Fodor and colleagues at Affymax built the first scanner in 1989, around the same time as they built their first microarray.
A photograph on the Affymetrix Web site captures the device. It shows a Zeiss microscope with a top-mounted camera, a freestanding laser, and mirrors to guide the beam into the microscope and through the sample.
"The early scanners were about the size of a Buick," recalls Mark Schena of the array scanner he used in Patrick Brown's lab. "They were these enormous, heavy, very unsafe devices that had laser light shooting all over the room. The fact that we got it to work, in retrospect, is nothing short of amazing." He still has a UV laser scar on his retina to prove it.
Users won't get laser burns...