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Small scientific computers have been widely used in research laboratories for on-line data acquisition to improve the efficiency of data collection and to perform sophisticated data manipulation before storage. An equally productive use of such computers is for the subsequent reduction of these data in real time, permitting interaction between investigator and computer and providing immediate interpretation of masses of data. This report describes the philosophy and techniques developed for the SCANS (Stanford Computers for the Analysis of Nuclear Structure) system for the reduction in real time of multichannel pulse-height spectra, which comprise the bulk of data in Nuclear Physics. The programming language for users is FORTRAN, to provide flexibility and ease in introducing and modifying sophisticated concepts such as nonlinear least-squares fitting. Software interface to specific real-time hardware devices such as oscilloscope display and light pen is accomplished via library subroutines which perform a variety of general purpose services. Several different applications of this approach to various types of data spectra are discussed to illustrate the degree of mutual interaction achieved between investigator and computer and the resultant optimization of reduction techniques to suit particular types of data.
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