Modern user facilities are a precious resource for academic and commercial scientists. They are expensive to construct and operate, and demand for access is overwhelming. Those who operate these facilities find that there is value in making the facilities reliable and easy to operate by this user community. The interface between the user and the instruments is an important component in the overall design of a facility, and the computer software has come to play a role in this interface that is equivalent to the mechanical controls and indicators accessible to a user or operator.
We have spent several years developing an evolving system for control of an x-ray beamline for macromolecular crystallographic measurements. Aspects of this software have migrated to other systems, providing feedback on the design. We will report on some of the principles of design that have arisen during this time and then will show some of the detail that can be built into software systems for instrument and experimental control.
(posted 17-Oct-97 jw)