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LABORATORY LOTUS A Complete Guide to Instrument Interfacing by Louis M. Mezei


Reviewed by Harry E. Pence

Note: This article was scanned using OCR from the Fall 1991 CCCE Newsletter. Please contact us if you identify any OCR errors.
Lotus 1-2-3ubiquitous business spreadsheet, is already widely used in chemistry laboratories to organize large data sets and to do simple, repetitive calculations. Mezei's<f<book describes how this software can not only do calculations and make graphs but also collect data from and control laboratory instrumentation.
Much of the book is devoted to explaining how to use either Lotus 1-2-3 or Symphony to interface instruments having RS-232 communications. The presentation is extremely systematic and clear. The author provides brief summaries at the beginning and end of most chapters and also includes a running outline to make the discussion clearer. Sample programs are developed one section at a time to make these examples easier to understand. This modular approach also helps to simplify the explanation and minimize the chances for error.
The instruments chosen to serve as examples include the ACROSYSTEMS ACR0-900 interface, the Perkin-Elmer LS-28 Fitter Fluorimeter, the Mettler AE 163 analytical balance with optional data interface, and the Bio-Tek El-309 Microplate Header, but for readers. who don't have access to these specific instruments, the author explains how these lessons can be applied more generally to other instrumentation. The discussion is not limited to data collection and treatment, but also covers how Lotus can set up the instrument, take the sample, and accumulate the data.
The presentation covers both RS-232 as well as IEEE-488 communications. For older instruments that lack a modern communications port, instructions are provided on how to access the data through a chart recorder output, an analog voltage output, or a digital display. Although considerations of cost and convenience cause the author to express a preference for the basic spreadsheet programs, he also discusses how to use Lotus Measure 2R for instrument interfacing.
The final chapter includes a general summary and some excellent general advice about developing a communications program for a laboratory instrument. This section offers some especially valuable tips on programming and troubleshooting. Appendices are provided that cover RS-232 cables and pinout specifications and also review the most useful Lotus functions and commands.
Among the profusion of books on Lotuss delightful to find one that is specifically aimed at chemists. It is even more pleasant to be able to report that the discussion is so systemaUc and lucid. This book should be both an excellent resource for those who are already dedicated Lotus users as well as an effective argument to convince new users that this software can play a valuable role in their laboratories.
10/10/91 to 10/14/91