Digital Multimeters (DMMs) and Precision DC Sources

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NI 4050 programming

I have a new-to-me NI 4050 multimeter in PCMCIA format in an old Dell laptop running LabView 2014 SP1 under Win-XP/SP3. The Test Panel shows the 4050 is working. All I want to do is to measure and record a DC voltage but I have no idea how to begin programming in LabView. All of the references I’ve seen assume I already know what I’m doing, which I do not. Some guidance would be appreciated; a canned routine that I could just run would be even better.

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Message 1 of 15

There are two things you'd need to learn:

a) LabVIEW / G programming. G is the graphical programming language, LabVIEW is the IDE:

b) The NI-DMM API, which is the programmatic driver API for using the instrument. For this, I advise looking at the examples bundled with the driver.


G is a neat and powerful language. But if you do not want to learn it, you should know that you can use NI-DMM from C.

NI-DMM also works from C# and Python, but I can't guarantee that you can use them with your older NI-DMM driver version. I do believe it's worth a shot, and Python might be your best bet.


a canned routine that I could just run would be even better.


The bundled examples would provide just that. But if you don't need programmatic control, just use the Soft Front Panel.


Be aware that the NI PCMCIA-4050 is an old, obsolete device that doesn't work on new OSes nor with new NI-DMM versions.

Marcos Kirsch
Chief Software Engineer
NI Driver Software
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Message 2 of 15

Thank you for the advice, which I am taking to heart. I am aware that my 4050 is old and obsolete and knew that when I bought it (inexpensively). Since my use is purely a hobby, the NI equipment doesn’t have to be up to date or useable with newer applications. All I need to do is to read a voltage once per [time unit] and write the data to a text file for later importing into Excel. The 4050 has sufficient range and resolution for what I want to do. The Soft Front Panel allows me to read any of the 4050’s abilities but not to record them; clearly, I can do that with any good voltmeter. The G programming is far more capable than I need, obviously. 

My programming experience ended with AppleSoft BASIC, which tells you everything you need to know. If I were 13 years old I’m sure I’d be in much better shape as regards programming languages but alas, I’m 73. I’m still capable of learning, of course, but have to budget my time, especially for my hobbies. Perhaps I’d be better off hiring that 13-yo kid to do the work for me! 


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Message 3 of 15

Your application sounds very simple.

What version of LabVIEW and of NI-DMM do you have?

Marcos Kirsch
Chief Software Engineer
NI Driver Software
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Message 4 of 15

I downloaded LabView 2014 SP1, which appears to be the last version of LabView that will run with the 4050 or on a Win-XP machine (or both, I forget which). As you know, these “trial” versions come with a 5-day license that can be extended. However, when I tried to extend the license, following instructions, the web site would not extend the license. Since then, the trial period has expired so I have no operating version of LabView. I am considering simply purchasing the program without evaluating it.


• I have version 15.2.0 of NI-DMM Soft Front Panel. It runs correctly and allows me to view whatever the 4050 is measuring. 

• I have version 15.0.0f0 of NI Measurement and Automation Explorer. It allows me to run the Test Panel and appears to do what it is supposed to do. 

• I have VirtualBench_DMM Measurement but of course it will not run without a working copy of LabView. It is supposed to run under LabView 14.0.1.


The above convinces me that the NI hardware works, communicates with my ancient Dell Latitude D830 Win-XP SP-3 laptop, and will do what I need it to do if I can get a working copy of LabView and learn how to use it.


Thank you for helping.




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Message 5 of 15

Update: In today’s mail I received the book, “LabVIEW 2009 Student Edition” by Robert H. Bishop including the DVD. I haven’t installed any software from the DVD yet and will begin by reading some of the book. 

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Update #2: LabVIEW 2009 has been successfully installed on my ancient laptop and activated/licensed with NI using the materials in Robert Bishop’s book (referenced previously). I am learning LabVIEW (slowly). So far I cannot locate a procedure or command to read the 4050 card but it must be in there somewhere. Once I figure out how to tell LabVIEW to look at the card I should be OK. Hints from group members would be appreciated. 

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Message 7 of 15

The NI-DMM installer will install some examples that show you some of the basics. Launch the Example Finder from LabVIEW's Help -> Find Examples... menu and browse around. Hopefully things are self explanatory enough once you launch the examples.

Marcos Kirsch
Chief Software Engineer
NI Driver Software
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Message 8 of 15

Thank you for your assistance. One of the challenges of buying old products is that support is not always readily available. The current example is the set of VI files to populate the “Learning” directory after installing LabVIEW 2009 Student Edition by Robert H. Bishop (Pearson Education, 2010). These are examples that the book uses as part of the LabVIEW learning process. They are nice but not absolutely necessary.


Unfortunately, the DVD accompanying the book does not include these files, which must be downloaded from the Pearson web site. Alas, because this is an obsolete product, the oldest files on the site are 2012, which won’t run on LabVIEW 2009—I tried. Interestingly, Pearson still sells this book in both electronic and paper formats but the “Learning” directory files are still not included.

Today I spent 57 minutes “chatting” with a Pearson support person. Although she was very nice, she was unable to access files older than 2012 (as I expected). The choices now as I see them are:

1. Try to find someone at Pearson with access to backup files that have to be tucked away somewhere and with enough interest in helping a customer to dig them out so I can download them;

2. Try to find someone at NI who has a copy of these files;

3. Try to find an individual who owns or owned a copy of LabVIEW 2009 Student Edition and who kept a copy of the “Learning” files.

4. Do without.




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Message 9 of 15

I happened upon and downloaded from the NI web site a program called “LabVIEW SignalExpress 2009,” version 3.5.0. It seems to be able to do exactly what I want: capture and record data from NI devices. However, it doesn’t recognize the NI 4050 and, when I try to “Acquire Signals,” says, “No supported devices found.” I don’t know if this is because there is some additional software missing or because SignalExpress doesn’t support the 4050. (One reason for specifically downloading the 2009 version was that it should be old enough to support older devices like the 4050.) Am I missing a driver or should I search for an older version of SignalExpress?

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Message 10 of 15