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Chapter 1. Roots

Chapter 1. Roots

LabVIEW has certainly made life easier for Gary, the engineer. I remember how much work it was in the early 1980s, writing hideously long programs to do what appeared to be simple measurement and control tasks. Scientists and engineers automated their operations only when it was absolutely necessary, and the casual users and operators wouldn’t dare to tamper with the software because of its complexity. This computer-based instrumentation business was definitely more work than fun. But everything changed when, in mid-1987, I went to a National Instruments (NI) product demonstration. The company was showing off a new program that ran on a Macintosh. It was supposed to do something with instrumentation, and that sounded interesting. When I saw what those programmers had done—and what LabVIEW could do—I was stunned! Wiring up icons to write a program? Graphical controls? Amazing! I had to get hold of this thing and try it out for myself.

By the end of the year, I had taken the LabVIEW class and started on my first project, a simple data acquisition system. It was like watching the sun rise. There were so many possibilities now with this easy and fun-to-use programming language. I actually started looking for things to do with it around the lab (and believe me, I found them). It was such a complete turnaround from the old days. Within a year, LabVIEW became an indispensable tool for my work in instrumentation and control. Now my laboratories are not just computerized, but also automated. A computerized experiment or process relies heavily on the human operators—the computer makes things easier by taking some measurements and doing simple things like that, but it’s far from being a hands-off process. In an automated experiment, on the other hand, you set up the equipment, press the Start button on the LabVIEW screen, and watch while the computer orchestrates a sequence of events, takes measurements, and presents the results. That’s how you want your system to work, and that’s where LabVIEW can save the day. Let’s start by taking a look at the world of automation.


  

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