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  1. Technology
February 11, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Brighton-based Amplicon Electronics Ltd is to distribute LabView 1.1 graphics simulation software for the Apple Macintosh in the UK. This is the second release of the product, which has been developed by National Instruments of Texas. LabView can reproduce the set-up of instruments, on a factory floor for example, and link them as they would be linked in real life. Therefore the voltmeters, switches and digital thermometers on screen can communicate information to one another just as their actual counterparts do. This information can then be analysed by LabView and reported in table or graph form. If necessary the software can instruct the equipment it is mimicking to take corrective action. Take an instance of a brewery where large vats of beer are fermenting. The beer must not rise above four feet or fall below one foot in depth. The sensors that have been installed to monitor the activity of the beer will send readings to LabView. This in turn produces a graph to show what is happening inside the vat. If the graph rises above four feet then LabView sets off an alarm and activates a mechanism to drain away the excess beer. Likewise should the beer fall below one foot, the software ensures that more liquid is poured in. But physical data doesn’t necessarily have to be used. What if? The type of what if? questions addressed to a spreadsheet can be entered instead. In this way the brewery could test out what would happen if the beer did rise above four feet and those engineers at Chernobyl could have seen what would happen on the screen instead of irradiating half of Europe. The LabView instruments, or virtual instruments, are able to act as if they are live by using a series of icons which build on one another to carry out complicated problems. An icon – beloved of the Macintosh fraternity and hastily adopted by IBM for the OS/2 Presentation Manager is simply a symbol which represents a process. For example an icon called + could mean that two numbers are added and an answer arrived at automatically. By linking a series of these icons and applying real or test data to them LabView is able to analyse problems. LabView 1.1 is an enhanced version of its predecessor and has faster execution, loading and drawing times. Amplicon says that a Digital Signal Processing library running on a Mac II is 10 times faster while code execution is four times as fast. It adds that the manipulation of arrays of data, printing and file input-output operations have also been improved. LabView’s instrumentation library contains drivers for over 50 IEEE-488 instruments. Analogue-to-digital, digital-to-analogue conversion, and digital input-output are provided for the Mac II with a new series of plug-in boards. A C language interface for LabView is also expected to be ready any time now. And later this month, Amplicon will be launching LabWindows, a scientific and engineering software package for the MS-DOS micros and the IBM PS/2. This will enables users to develop application software for data acquisition, reduction, analysis, presentation and instrument control. LabView 1.1 has a price tag of UKP1,800.

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