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Judges Rule: Is LabVIEW a Programming Language?

By Scott Jordan

At the first LabVIEW User Group meeting in 1989, I presented briefly on my LabVIEW-based development of the Digital Gradient Search, an approach used for physically aligning optical and photonic devices for testing and manufacturing.  The technique quickly became the standard approach for that industry and still dominates today— and I’ve kept building on the concept clear to the present.  

In fact, the original technology was the topic of the first U.S. patent that cited a LabVIEW example (https://patents.google.com/patent/US5278934A)— I had to go before a three-judge appeal panel with my company’s attorney to convince them that LabVIEW source code is actually source code and not some sort of flowchart!  Flowcharts and other pictorial depictions were disallowed in patent applications at that time in cases where words (such as “real” source code) could do the job, but that changed after the judges’ decision in our favor that followed my live demonstration of building a VI from scratch right in front of them.  They were originally quite skeptical… long story, but it was clear my attorney was going down in flames so I cleared my throat, said “May I show you?” and walked up to the bench with my Powerbook.  Today I’d probably get Tasered, but we won.

P.S. That three-decade old coffee mug’s “display” has aged and doesn’t transition from entirely dark to entirely “on” anymore.  This photo was taken with hot water in the mug.

One reply on “Judges Rule: Is LabVIEW a Programming Language?”

The “Is LabView a programming language” debate or “where is the ‘C’ source code for this diagram/flowchart” has gone on for years after your court case.
And still today, there are a few ‘irreducibles’ that stubbornly keep asking these same questions…

PS – BTW, where can I get one of these mugs? (don’t care about age)

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