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From the archives: 64-bit LabVIEW!

The other day, I saw this tweet from Darren Nattinger, replying to a tweet by Jim Kring, of JKI

And I realized that it’s been over ten years since we released 64-bit LabVIEW. I wrote about it in the blog I had at the time (which lives forever, like everything on the internet 🙂 ).

I led a team of two other amazing developers, Adam and Kyle. The three of us just plowed through the few million lines of C/C++ and made it 64-bit aware. No big deal. 😉 When we first started, I felt like there was a greater than 50% chance that we’d fail. Most likely, that we’d decide it wasn’t worth the effort–we’d hit some very large boulder, and decide not to go on. But we persisted, and ended up coming in ahead of schedule and below budget. We actually had to wait (a year, I think) for the device driver groups to catch up with their 64-bit support.

I loved testing the limits of LabVIEW (on my computer with 12 gigabytes of RAM, which was unusual at the time) and seeing how it broke. We would put Windows into a mode where it forced memory addresses above the 32-bit barrier, to catch places where we truncated a pointer to 32 bits. Those were fun times–though perhaps that reveals something about my personality and how I love to debug hard, tedious problems.

We did face a “chicken and egg” problem inside the NI decision-making process when it came to supporting the rest of the LabVIEW platform–toolkits, TestStand support, etc. The question was, should we take an “if we build it, they will come” approach, and update as many toolkits as possible to 64-bit, or should we wait until there is customer demand? I was in the former camp, but as a sign of my political influence at the time, most toolkits were not released with 64-bit support for years. I’m not saying it was a bad business decision–just that it’s hard for someone to adopt the 64-bit product with an incomplete ecosystem.

Because I am so familiar with all the limitations inside of 32-bit LabVIEW, I’ve considered the 64-bit version to be my tool of choice for a decade. I’m glad that LabVIEW finally appears strong enough to receive Darren’s endorsement.

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