NI introduces LabView 8.20, 20th anniversary edition, today at NIWeek

By Control Engineering Staff August 8, 2006

LabView 8.20 is National Instrument’s 20 th anniversary edition, released as NI celebrates 30 years at NIWeek 2006. Shown is a screen shot of LabView Development Systems, one of many packages available.

Austin , TX — Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its flagship software, National Instruments introduced LabView 8.20 today, Aug. 8, the opening day of its NIWeek 2006 users’ conference. NI, marking 30 years as a company, says the graphical power of LabView has “revolutionized the way thousands of engineers and scientists work, providing improved product quality, shorter time to market, and greater engineering and manufacturing efficiency. With a flexible, open platform, LabView continues to deliver productivity to engineers and scientists facing increasingly complex application needs.”

Objectives of the new release include ability to make common measurement tasks easy with any board, instrument, or bus;

Inventor tells it like it was

Jeffrey L. Kodosky, NI fellow (and LabView inventor), reminded Control Engineering that in 1986 an engineer’s world included proprietary instruments, controllers, sequential programming, calculators, Basic, Fortran, ASCII terminals, and costly infrastructure. In a June meeting with Control Engineering editors Kodosky said, “Our slogan was to make a tool that would make scientists and engineers productive in the way the spreadsheet made accounting productive.” Spreadsheets were good for a lot of things, “but you couldn’t represent a loop in a spreadsheet,” he noted. After seeing an Apple Macintosh mid-1984, Kodosky remarked that “we needed to use graphics for user interfaces. It was a nifty idea, but unclear if we could make it practical.”

So in summer 1985, the team took a bunch of ideas about how the software should work and mixed in a bunch of students right out of school who “didn’t know it was impossible.” By the end of October they had a program that could communicate with an instrument and show information on screen, but it took a year more to make it appropriate for an October 1986 release. The development team was shocked when the target market “basically ignored us,” despite being able to do control, simulation, modeling, test and measurement, without a programming team. More memory was needed. “We swallowed hard and invested in graphical compiler, released four years later,” Kodosky said.

Many upgrades have ensued since; development years total over 1,500 now. “It’s a solid long-lasting platform as opposed a niche language,” he observes, good for many years to come. With users totaling well over 400,000, Kodosky asked, “What other company’s development environment can withstand kids in third grade (Lego robotics software) to rocket scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab?”

More on new LabView 8.20 features

LabView 8.20 product features include more attention to industrial measurements, simplified data sharing for distributed systems including handhelds, an FPGA wizard for custom control system development, 10x improvement in PID real-time control loop performance, FPGA for machine monitoring applications, quickly replicated realtime industrial control systems, open algorithm design with MathScript text-based math, and 9x performance improvements for LabView simulation mode.

Click here for more information about the new release, NI LabView 8.20.

Click here for more about NIWeek 2006.

— Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief