LabVIEW is a programming language that uses a graphical user interface instead of text to let you program. It is commonly used in data acquisiton and measurement because that's what it does best. LabVIEW officially uses the G programming language which is one and the same as LabVIEW.

LabVIEW is a dataflow programming language developed in 1982 by National Instruments, located in Austin, Tx. Dataflow was a concept invented in academia in the early 1970s, but languished unused for the simple reason that no one could come up with a way to designate a loop.

Dataflow is very much like signal logic for chips. Information flows along a wire to a "node" -- the equivalent of a function in a text language. When all of the input wires (also called signals) are available, the node executes. When it finishes, its output goes onto output wires that connect to further nodes. Advantages: The language is naturally parallel. It can be immediately determined which sections of code are independent of each other because they have no wires connecting them, so such sections may be immediately run in separate threads. Optimized memory usage without human intervention is possible because data is allocated where a wire begins and freed where a wire ends (LabVIEW itself does even further optimizations beyond this, noting where two separate wires have the same value and allowing them to share dataspace.) Also, the visual nature of the language enables neophytes to pick it up quickly and allows easier explanation of code than C or other text languages (IMHO, as generally believed by those who have seen dataflow languages).

LabVIEW conquered the loop issue by inventing structured programming. In retrospect, the rectanglar boxes that LabVIEW puts around code to represent loops seems painfully obvious. But 10 years of research by many CS folks failed to come up with the idea. After 2 years and 1 million dollars of reasearch money, National Instruments applied for, and received, a patent for the use of rectangles in dataflow programming. The brilliant leaps of logic always seem trivial after the fact.

Contrast LabVIEW with Lisp, Java and pure C for four very different programming paradigms.

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