Thinklabs was founded in 1991 by Clive Smith, an Electrical Engineering graduate of Caltech. The name implies the company’s goal – think deeply about problems that matter and develop imaginative solutions. Smith has always had a passion for medical electronics, sound, music and signal processing.
In the mid 90’s, Smith read a paper in Circulation indicating that stethoscope acoustics had essentially not improved since Laennec built the first stethoscope in 1816. Physicians confirmed that even top-of-the-line conventional stethoscopes did a poor job of amplifying heart and lung sounds. Thus began Smith’s obsession to re-invent the stethoscope.
The concept of an electronic stethoscope was not new. For a century, the road to perfect auscultation was littered with the carcasses of failed efforts. Smith started experimenting. Technologies were tested, rejected, modified and retested. The key breakthrough came with a question: How can one create an electrical analog to the acoustic pressure changes in a conventional stethoscope?
All the benefits of advanced electronic technology would then accrue and the authentic sound of the stethoscope would be preserved. Physicians would not require any ear retraining. A completely new transducer was needed.
Smith found that he could detect the vibration of a stethoscope diaphragm using a high intensity electric field – almost 1 million Volts per meter! The result – The Electromagnetic Diaphragm that is key to the audio quality of every Thinklabs stethoscope. Smith spent another 7 years perfecting the product. The ds32 was released in late 2003, becoming the choice of a loyal community of users.
The Thinklabs One marks another paradigm shift in stethoscope design – a bold move to eliminate the hollow tube styling that pre-dates The American Civil War. It represents a belief that the time has come for the familiar icon of medicine to be retired to the museum.