In 1986, James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky introduced LabVIEW, a graphical programming language that enables user-defined testing, measurement and control systems and is used by engineers, scientists, academics and students around the world. A new paradigm for programming, Truchard and Kodosky’s virtual instrumentation software has been adopted across many industry sectors with varied applications, from controlling the CERN Large Hadron Collider to facilitating navigation of the FDA regulatory process to testing video game controllers.
In the 1970s, Truchard and Kodosky were researchers at the University of Texas Applied Research Laboratories, responsible for automating acoustical instruments for the U.S. Navy. Frustrated by inefficient data collection methods of the time and determined to simplify their work, they imagined how computers might facilitate high-end testing. Along with co-worker Bill Nowlin, they founded National Instruments (NI), to develop the relationship between scientific instruments and computers through a concept called virtual instrumentation, where software and hardware combine to perform the functions of traditional instruments. LabVIEW would become its flagship product.
With LabVIEW (Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Engineering Workbench), users program graphically and can design custom virtual instruments by connecting graphical icons with software wires to create block diagrams that are natural design notations for scientists and engineers. Users can customize front panels with knobs, buttons, dials and graphs to emulate control panels of instruments or add custom graphics to visually represent the control and operation of processes.
Truchard is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin for his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. After leading NI for four decades as CEO and Chairman, he retired in 2017. Truchard is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is an IEEE Fellow.