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Digital computers have become indispensable aids for many laboratory disciplines, allowing the performance of experiments which would be infeasible without the aid of a computer. Until recently, these computations have usually been carried out off-line, i.e., experimental data has been acquired in real time and subsequently processed on a large central computer. Small, relatively inexpensive digital computers first entered the laboratory as a substantial aid in real-time acquisition of data and control of experiments. Such computers, however, suffer severe limitations with regard to ultimate processing of the data. Hence the data processing must still generally be done on a large computer.
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