There is no doubt that instruments have become the norm in analytical
laboratories, but classical wet chemistry techniques remain important
tools. This is especially true when the chemist is asked to identify
a total unknown. These classical techniques include microscopic examination,
chemical derivitization and color tests. One classical technique that
is used daily, even in an instrument oriented laboratory, is extraction.
Extraction utilizes the partitioning of a material between two phases.
Extraction is useful for sample preparation and purification, but is also often a first step in qualitative analysis. Indeed, chemists that have been cross examined extensively on their ability to discriminate compounds using mass spectrometry have often forgotten the more simple clues that contribute to their final conclusions: solubility or insolubility in various solvents and how these properties relate to structure. If you are shooting sample solutions on the GC/MS system, you do have basic solubility data; using the totality of evidence, one can easily terminate cross examinations that are ultimately misleading to the jury.