Colony counts: human vs. software

Brian Hoyle brianh at
Fri Jun 30 14:25:30 EST 1995

I supervise a microbiology lab for the province of New Brunswick (Canada). We 
analyse waters, mainly for coliforms and total bacteria. The latter are 
determined by the pour plate method. We are requested to perform thousands 
of plate counts annually. The counting of colonies can be a laborious process. 
With this in mind I requested information on a software program called COLONY. 
A Mac version has been available for about a year, with a Windows version 
available soon.

If anyone reading this has any "hands on" experience with this software, I 
would appreciate hearing your impressions of the ease of use, reliability, 
usefulness, etc., of the software. I would also appreciate hearing folks' 
views on the purpose behind the acquisition of such software (automation of 
enumeration). I am questioning my wisdom of increasing productivity by putting 
the responsibility of determining counts in the "hands" of a computer. Should 
automation be used ONLY as a means of speeding up the parts of an analysis 
which do not require a decision? Or can functions like the determination of a 
plate count be entrusted to a machine?

Please feel free to contact me via this newsgroup or via my e-mail address 
(brianh at Thank you for any technical help and advice you can 

Brian Hoyle

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