Diabetes Technology in 1983

Found in the Smithsonian online archives - an example of my bg meter from 1983.

I had been diagnosed T1 (well it was called “Juvenile Onset” back then) in summer 1982 (so I’m coming up on my 38th diaversary) and at first had done urine testing as taught by my local doc and hospital.

But shortly afterward I got introduced to home blood testing at the state university hospital and started on Chemstrip’s and this meter. Wow, home blood testing was way better!

I rarely used the meter because for the next decade+ I would cut up the Chemstrips to make 3 or more strips out of 1, and while I could visually read them that way the meter could not read them that way. The pediatric endo staff showed me and my family this trick.

I got very good over the next decade+ cutting up test strips into narrow slivers to save money!

Occasionally in the early 80’s Chemstrips would be out of stock and the pharmacy would have a very different Ames bg test strip that was fuzzy and had to be washed by water as part of development. If anyone knows of pictures of this Ames strip please let me know.

Full Smithsonian link:https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_738655 . If you go there and follow through the pictures you come across several pages from an advertising brochure from the early 80’s.


Great post, Tim!

Wow, I’d forgotten the Accuchek name

I can’t remember what year it was but I had the Canadian version of this honking big meter. The meter itself was blue, and the two buttons were yellow and orange.

I remember thinking I was so high tech (the previous 20 years were limited to Clinitest urine testing, which were next to useless).

Thanks for finding this Tim :+1:t4:

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Wow, thank you for sharing. Nancy50

That is funny, I had one as well. Did that thing take 3 or 4 minutes to give a blood sugar? That thing took forever.

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I recall one being wait one minute with blood on, then wipe, then wait one minute to compare color to bottle ??

Oh yeah, I recall that one. Man I hated those things. I mean hated. When my doctor gave me one of those things he said, this is not practical so use it in an emergency. I never got to that emergency. I would say, you know if I need a blood sugar I will go to the lab. How stupid. I was Dx’d in 1974.

I vaguely recall there was supposed to be at least extra minute to wait (on top of the usual two) for the strip to develop if the result was darker than 180 or 240.

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I, too, remember a blue version of an early bg meter. I lived in Canada in the 90’s so maybe the Canadian version was blue? Hard to remember at this point.

I’m wondering if there’s any pictures of the Ames fuzzy must-be-washed-in-water bg strips or meters out there. I don’t know for sure but maybe these were the strips that went with the old analog meter sometimes shown in early pictures of Bernstein.

As a 15 year old in 1983 I remember hating the thought that in addition to taking insulin NOW THEY WANTED ME to poke my finger and check my bg multiple times a day. I really resented that for a good while. I kinda remind myself of that when I’m talking to my T2 friends (now about my same age) who are resentful or overwhelmed at bg checking.

Another 1980s tool I used was an auto-jector. I was doing 3 shots a day, using NPH and Regular. This helped me reach more locations, as my legs were lumpy from 20 years of Lente only injections.

Wow! Thanks for sharing, this is so interesting.

I was diagnosed in 1990, so I remember so antiquated diabetes technology…not like this though! I remember the meter that you had to put blood on the strip, wait a minute or two, wipe the blood off with a cotton ball, wait another minute or two (referenced is some of the comments above)…and also NPH. It really is amazing how much technology has advanced.

I got one of the Ames meters back in the late 1970’s. I did wash the blood off the strip after one minute, then i think I had to wait another minute before inserting the strip in the meter. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thrown it away, so if I can ever find it, I’ll post pictures here. Maybe I still have the strips, too; wouldn’t it be crazy if the thing still works? It didn’t have batteries, it plugged into the wall. If you unplugged it, you had to wait 30 minutes for it to warm up. But, it was a start.

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Whoa! Blast from the past. I got one of these and promptly stopped using it after about a month. Just went back to the old wipe, wait and compare. I think I took my BS twice or three times a day then. Gah!

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Yeah, I remember cutting ChemStrips. I cut them in half; did not find it worth the trouble to slit them narrower. But I loved them … as primitive as they look now, it was SO much better than urine testing.

I’ve used at least a dozen meters over the years, probably over 15, lost count. I’ve thrown away all the past ones except the Direct 30/30. Loved that one – no strips, unlimited testing for 30 days for $30. Eli Lilly formed a subsidiary (Elco Diagnostics) for it but did a poor job of marketing, and it failed in the market.


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How did any of us survive the regular insulin and nph days.
I swear I would crash out a few times a week.
When ultra Lente came out I thought it was a godsend.
Now with a pump and cgm,I kinda can’t imagine going backwards now. There is a clinical trial in losangeles for islet transplants. If anyone is interested. I wonder if this is the way we are headed.


Jim, found a picture on the interwebs with the blue one!



Good find @Tim12 :clap:

Your picture of the old blue brick brings back a lot of memories :sunglasses:

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Michelle, was this the Ames meter you had? It has the adapter for plugging into the wall so I’m thinking it might be close.


I would occasionally use the Ames water-washed strips in the early 1980’s. My recollection was that if you opened the bottle on a humid day that you better close it fast or else the strips will all get ruined by humidity!

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47 yrs and counting. Blood test every 6 months to reset the units of the beef/pork based insulin I would inject. Urine tests worked if you spilled sugar but if it showed no sugar your blood sugar could be 20 and you would never know except to jam OJ in you… thank goodness for those little metal OJ cans I use to carry around to all of my sporting events back in the day :o) Now looking at CGM’s… whodathunk