A dual-processor, distributed-intelligence approach to the computerization of an atomic emission spectrometer is presented. One processor handles data acquisition and instrument control and the second processor handles data presentation and user interaction. In particular, a unique human processor interface (HPI) has been developed for user interaction. A key goal in the development of the interface was to make the front-end processor's behavior "instrument-like," as opposed to making the instrument "computer-like": that is, to implement an <i>instrument metaphor.</i> This term is derived in concept from the desk-top metaphor: the instrument is mapped onto the screen where it appears as a pictorial representation of the original. In one's mapping the instrument, its dials, its controls, its indicators, and its front panels onto the screen and utilizing a point-and-click syntax in conjunction with a mouse, pull-down menus, and multiple overlapping windows, and by one's treating the entire screen as a menu, operating the instrument becomes an intuitive activity rather than a memorization test. By the clicking of the mouse at any location on this instrument metaphor, multiple levels of overlapping windows appear on the screen that provide additional graphic and text information. In our application, this metaphor is also used as a vehicle for direct instrument control from the computer's screen. In this paper, the distributed-intelligence system is described, the instrument metaphor concept is explained, and its application to ICP-AES instrumentation is illustrated. As part of this application, an extensive, graphically accessible atomic spectroscopy data base, complete with an elaborate help and explain facility, has been developed.
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