KeywordsLocal Area Network (LAN)
Wide Area Network (WAN)
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Distributed Processing (DP)
Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP)
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AbstractThe necessity to acquire and analyze data dates back to the beginning of science itself. Long ago, a scientist may have run experiments and noted the results on a piece of paper. These notes became the data. The method was crude, but effective. As experiments got more complex, the need for better methodologies arose. Scientists began using computers to gather, analyze, and store the data. This method worked well for most types of data acquisition. As the amount of data being collected increased, larger computers, faster processors, and faster storage devices were used in order to keep up with the demand. This method was more refined, but still did not meet the needs of the scientific community. Requirements began to change in the data acquisition arena. More people wanted access to the data in real time. Companies producing large data acquisition systems began to move toward a network-based solution. This architecture featured a specialized computer called the server, which contained all of the data acquisition hardware. The server handled requests from multiple clients and handled the data flow to the network, data displays, and the archive medium. While this solution worked well to satisfy most requirements, it fell short in meeting others. The ability to have multiple computers working together across a local or wide area network (LAN or WAN) was not addressed. In addition, this architecture inherently had a single point of failure. If the server machine went down, all data from all sources was lost. Today, we see that the requirements for data acquisition systems include features only dreamed of five years ago. These new systems are linked around the world by wide area networks. They may include code to command satellites or handle 250 Mbps download rates. They must produce data for dozens of users at once, be customizable by the end user, and they must run on personal computers (PCs)! Systems like these cannot work using the traditional client/server model of the past. The data acquisition industry demands systems with far more features than were traditionally available. These systems must provide more reliability and interoperability, and be available at a fraction of the cost. To this end, we must use commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) computers that operate faster than the mainframe computers of only a decade ago. These computers must run software that is smart, reliable, scalable, and easy to use. All of these requirements can be met by a network of PCs running the Windows NT operating system.
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