Instrument user interfaces
In Knobs and Buttons Are Toast, Long Live the Pinch, I noted how more powerful PCs, coupled with smartphones and tablets, are changing the way engineers control test equipment. The use of PCs as instrument interfaces, while nothing new, made numerous appearances in 2014, particularly in RF test equipment. Expect more in 2015. Why? Because PCs are powerful enough to relieve test instruments from burdensome signal processing.
"The growing mainstream adoption of PC and tablet-compatible test and measurement instruments is a reflection of a broader trend of software-based things," said Chris Delvizis, senior product manager at National Instruments. "PCs and mobile devices have evolved into centralized platforms that provide a common user interface and interoperability between devices and tasks. For engineers, the interoperability between instrumentation and other tools within their workflow means increased ease-of-use, convenience, and productivity."
Delvizis also noted "Today's engineers are extremely tech savvy and are entering the workplace having grown up using computing devices." The "tech savvy" engineers are bringing about a change in how engineers gain access to their test instruments. Alan Tong managing director at USB oscilloscope maker Pico Technology noted that, although Windows has been the dominant operating system on engineering benches and for controlling test equipment, there's a shift in the air. "A reluctance to upgrade to Windows 8 and greater familiarity of alternatives," he said, "is resulting in increasing demands to run design tools and test equipment on multiple platforms such as Linux, Android, and Mac OS X."
I'll second Tong on the reluctance to adopt Windows 8. Hopefully, Windows 10 will be the worthy successor to Windows 7. Indeed, I bought my first Windows 7 computer in 2014 and will likely buy another one or two this year. I even bought my first Mac in 2014.