Old school radiocarbon dates used to be collected using Geiger counters to establish the amount of radiation they were emitting.
But nowadays, once a sample is successfully collected there are several forms of mass spectrometers and other equipment which can more accurately measure the carbon fourteen level of a sample.
But radiocarbon dating tries its best; and can often serve as a base for additional scientific techniques which can clarify results further.
It is a vital part in the investigation and preservation of our past and a lovely bit of analysis to compliment digital records of monuments.
However, a number of things can easily go wrong during this stage of the process and the labs that calculate radiocarbon dates are subject to constant scrutiny to ensure that they are up to par; but even so, samples sent to different labs often produce slightly various results. These are established by a variety of elements, including but not limited to: the quality of the sample, the quality of the lab, and the age of the sample.