I started using LabVIEW in 1992. Since then, I’ve developed literally hundreds of systems in LabVIEW. I’ve also had ample opportunities to discuss LabVIEW with many people, and I’ve come across several myths about this incredible tool. It’s time to set the record straight on at least some of these.
Myth 1: LabVIEW is not a complete programming language. It’s just an way to interface to some instruments. Or, the alternative: It’s just a way to make pretty Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s).
Fact: It’s true that LabVIEW is great for instrument interfaces, and for developing some great GUI’s, but it can do much more. I can and have written a very broad assortment of applications in LabVIEW, and have never felt limited by the language. Examples include hundreds of complete automatic test systems, but also include a chess program that can easily beat tournament winners. Also included are applications for researching artificial intelligence, mathematics, physics, and cognitive function, genetic algorithms, and more. The language includes all the usual constructs any computer language should have, including multiple types of loops, selector constructs, dozens of atomic data structures, ability to assemble custom collections of those structures, including unlimited hierarchy, a wide selection of file I/O, loads of powerful libraries, and support for recursion. As a final point, I developed a Turing Machine in LabVIEW, and a Turing Machine has been mathematically proven to be able to compute anything that any Von Neumann architecture computer (essentially all current computers) can do.
Myth 2: LabVIEW runs slower than textual languages.
Fact: Version 1.0, developed in the mid-80’s, was interpreted, so slower. But, as of version 2.0 (early 90’s), LabVIEW has been compiled. In fact, the way it works is the graphical diagram is first converted to ‘C’ code, which is then sent to an optimizing ‘C’ compiler. National Instruments (NI) has invested heavily in optimizing these steps. Personally, I’ve run some benchmarks, and have always found LabVIEW code to run as fast or faster than ‘C’ code.
Myth 3: LabVIEW is not a serious computer language. Other than maybe a test system, it isn’t used for any “real world” applications.
Fact: There are loads of examples of major “real world” applications successfully developed with LabVIEW. One example is Space X, a leading manufacturer and operator of commercial spacecraft. They use LabVIEW extensively in many roles, including all aspects of mission control. Another example is the latest Air Force fighter, which is being simulated using LabVIEW.
So, don’t believe the myths. LabVIEW may not be for everyone, but it can certainly be used any place a textual programming language can. And in many cases, it does an even better job.