Using a personal computer to control laboratory instruments and automate data collection is like many things in life-- there are trade-offs.

On the positive side, computerized data acquisition is usually more accurate, more consistent, and less consuming of technicians' time than are manual methods. On the other hand, someone has to set up the system. In the past, this often meant hiring a person with computer experience--a trade-off too costly for many labs.

Vendors of data-acquisition software understand that most scientists are not computer programmers. Since the late 1980s, following the lead of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer Inc.'s user-friendly Macintosh, these software developers have used computer graphics to simplify instrument control and data acquisition. Setting up an automated data-acquisition system--in applications ranging from basic research to quality control--is no longer a job for computer experts only.

Data Translation Inc. 100 Locke Dr. Marlboro, Mass. 01752-1192 (508) 481-3700 Fax: (508) 481-8620...

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