Computer-based Instrument Register

( C I R )

A cikk szerzője Menyhárd Alfréd, így minden jog tulajdonosa. A honlapon történő megjelentetés a tudtával és engedélyével történt.

What is CIR?

CIR is an information management system for high-value electronic equipment and measuring instruments (shortly, instruments). It is a sophisticated inventory register, with facility for entering, deleting, classifying, checking, sorting, and searching data, and printing out many kinds of lists and reports. It can be used to analyze trends in instrumentation. It provides figures to use when planning purchase policy, establishing repair facilities, modifying administrative procedures, etc.
CIR is a relational database. Relational databases have several advantages over simple inventory lists. It would be very inefficient to store all the information relevant to one instrument in a single big data record. Much of this information is relevant to other instruments as well - for example, the postal address and other details about its manufacturer. It would be very inefficient to reinput all this information every time an owner buys a new instrument.
Instead, in CIR only closely related pieces of information are stored in each set of records ("data files"). There is for example a data file for owners, another for manufacturers, and another for individual instruments. Records in the owner data file contain full information about each owner. Records in the manufacturer data file contain information about manufacturers. Each owner or manufacturer is allotted a reference code ("Owner Code", "Manufacturer Code"). When entering data into the record for a specific instrument it is thus only necessary to enter the codes for owner and manufacturer, not their full data. CIR automatically retrieves this whenever it is needed by referring to the relevant data file.
If there is a change in the data, for example if an owner has a new telephone number, the CIR operator enters the new number into the record in the owner data file. After this every instrument belonging to this owner will automatically be associated with this new number. This is the basic concept of relational databases, and it is applied in CIR.
CIR was developed in the database language Visual FoxPro 9.0. This powerful language makes it possible to carry out searches, or ask for data, far more quickly than in older database systems, even if the database holds more than ten thousand records.

How does CIR work?

CIR holds all the most important data for equipment and instruments for which the purchase price exceeded an established limit. The data registered are:
  • - name and type of instrument
  • - instrument category, i.e. what kind of instrument
  • - main technical data
  • - name and address of owner
  • - contact person
  • - serial number
  • - inventory number
  • - date of purchase
  • - price
  • - condition
  • - place of use
  • - application
  • - accessories

As explained above, CIR is a "relational database", a coordinated set of sub-databases which relate to each other and work together. This saves storage capacity and, which is more important, assures data consistency. Any change in a data field, e.g. a modification of a manufacturer's name, will automatically be made in every part of the database. Thus one can change data easily and safely, in all kinds of record.
CIR offers users a very friendly interface, with clear menus and dialog windows accessed by mouse control. This makes it easy to use even for non-programmers. The electronic version of the Reference Manual is built into the CIR program. Turn to that if you don't know what to do next.
The opening menu (main menu) offers options with many choices of control command. The user can retrieve and display existing records, modify or delete them, type in new records, do statistical operations on the data, or print reports about them. There are options for functions such as back-up, re-index, restore, verify, etc. There are "short-cut" keys (keys with dedicated functions) that can be used to jump from one screen to another directly, without going through a menu.
The system is password-protected against unauthorized use. At the start, before the opening menu, it asks for a password. Operation stops if the correct answer is not given.
CIR has a set of codes which facilitate fast access to data, even if there are very many instruments in the database. Data coded in this way include category of instrument, date of purchase, purchase price, and the geographical region in the country where the instrument is located.
As well as accepting such coded information CIR presents text fields for entering technical data of any type, noting information about the specific use of an instruments, and any important accessories, such as special probes, interfaces, control computers etc, that are used with it.

Entering data into CIR

CIR is not only an inventory, it is also an information system which includes data about those who provided the information it contains (the instrument owners) and those who may use the data. Its operation is controlled by a set of strict rules which describe procedures for data collecting, data processing, and use of the data. These rules prescribe for example the cut-off value - the minimum value of instrument to be included in CIR.
CIR's instrument records are built up from information provided by the institutes which own the instruments. They provide this on standard Registration Forms which are sent out periodically (typically once in a year) by the processing team of CIR. New data is entered into the system in predefined form, through the keyboard. Records are modified in the same way.
CIR has facilities not only for entering data but also for checking it thoroughly. The program can discover syntactical and content errors related to the input it receives.
Responsibilities of those operating CIR include sending out Registration Forms, checking and coding completed Forms when they are received back from the owners, entering data into the database, publicizing the service to potential users, assisting users in getting information from the system, and maintaining computer hardware and software.

Retrieving information

There are two basic way to extract information from the system - by searching for individual data, and by making lists or statistical reports.
Searching for data is done by quoting codes or referring to related text data fields. When a code (e.g. a Manufacturer Code) is used as basic condition for selection, the user enters the code from the keyboard. Or, when the name or title related to a given code is known, it may either be typed in or may be selected from a list offered by the program.
Some of the codes have an inner hierarchy which allows the user to apply different levels of search to different selections. What does this mean? For example, the instrument Classification Code describes instruments in a hierarchical way, at three levels.

Each Classification Code has six digits, written together, of which:

  - the first pair gives a very general classification

   (e.g. 04 is acoustical instruments)

  - the second pair gives sub-sets of the first pair

   (thus 0401 refers to sound sources)

  - third pair gives sub-sets of the second pair

   (thus 040102 is ultrasonic oscillators)

This instrument classification is the core of CIR. The full classification list contains more than five hundred entries. The following is an excerpt:


When applying such codes during a search, selective or less selective criteria can be used by entering only the relevant parts of the code.The classification system supplied with CIR is a general-purpose listing, not too detailed or specific. It can be adapted according to the user's need and to keep up with future developments in instrumentation technology.
It is also possible to search for a text string - letters or numbers making up words or even only parts of words - in text fields.
For some common tasks there are built-in search routines which put useful lists directly onto the screen, or print them out.
After a successful search the information about instruments found by the search can be seen on the screen, one at a time. The user can step through them simply by pressing the "+" key. Or he can ask for a printed list. Lists can be viewed on the screen before printing.
In the "browse" mode, which is available for almost every window of CIR, several instrument records can be displayed together for a quick review.
The content of statistical outputs - "analyses" - can be defined by the user. Such reports may contain data processed numerically. Some examples from the many possible variations: number and total value of instruments purchased within a given date range, number and total value of instruments in specified categories, numbers of instrument as a function of purchase value, etc.
CIR is " year 2000-compliant" , that is accept, record and use dates correctly without any ambiguity as regards the century concerned.

Utility functions

Beside basic functions for daily use CIR provides special utility functions. For example, it will: - print address labels for all or a group of users. This is useful for asking for data, sending out reminders, circulating information, etc.

  • - save data to diskettes in a space-saving compressed archive form.
  • - verify that saved data has not been damaged by the compression process.
  • - restore databases from compressed files.
  • - re-index stored data.
  • - display an electronic version of the Reference Manual.

Who can use CIR with the best results?

CIR was designed for use by users with very little experience of computerised databases. However, those will get most from it who:

  • - are familiar with instruments and measurements,
  • - understand basic database concepts,
  • - are familiar with CIR's system of registration,
  • - are familiar with the types of information held in CIR,
  • - understand how information in it is interrelated, and
  • - know exactly what information they want to get from CIR.