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Recent instrumentation developments, paralleling the advances of the microelectronics revolution, have changed the basic character of instruments. Most significant has been the substitution of microprocessors and software for hardware to produce virtual instrumentation. An experimenter using virtual instrumentation communicates with a microcomputer and software via a keyboard to electronically configure the system hardware to meet his measurement needs. Versatile, cost-effective prototype systems have been developed for undergraduate laboratories. The encouraging results of these prototypes and further technological advances suggest a bright future for virtual instrumentation.