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Introduction to automation

Cervical screening is a  repetitious time consuming task :thus it is a very suitable target for automation.     

The first static cells scanners were developed 50 years ago, one of the first being the Cytoanalyser (Airborne Instruments laboratory New York). Despite over $5,000,000 being spent on its development (a lot of money in those days!), the system  failed to find a place in clinical practice  for lack of sufficient  computing power to cope with the analysis of the complex smear patterns which are so readily interpreted by  the human brain. Subsequent attempts  in Europe, Japan and America during  the next  40 years  to develop  a commercially viable automated scanner for cervical screening were also unsuccessful.      

Recently  have there been significant advances in the development of automated systems  for the analysis of cervical smears.   These  advances  have  been made possible  by the development of of powerful computers which can process large volumes of data very rapidly  and have been accelerated by the introduction  of improved cell preparation systems such as thin smear  preparation and sophisticated image analysis programmes .     

The principles which underly  the operation of the  automated systems which are now commercially available are discussed in this section.