Measuring History

"Measuring History" tells the history of National Instruments and the impact it has had on the world.

Measuring History

Dave Thomson lent me this book a few weeks ago. He had read and enjoyed it and thought I would too. "Measuring History" tells the history of the company formerly known as National Instruments and currently known as NI. I did enjoy the book, although I think they got the title wrong. I think it should have been called "Measuring the Future" instead of "Measuring History". I get that the book is about the history of NI, but I think the things that NI was and is currently measuring are the technologies of the future. "Measuring the Future" just seems more optimistic and inspirational. "Measuring History" makes me want to make some joke about NI's perceived decline lately.


There is a section in the book where it talks about how Austin has changed over the years. There were a bunch of NI employees that had been there for various periods of time. they were all lamenting how Austin had changed over the years, however, they didn't have a common vision of what it should be like. Each wanted Austin to return to the way it was when they first moved there.

I suppose I feel similarly about NI. When I first got to know NI, times were different. That was 15 years ago and they've certainly made a lot of changes since then. I do question the wisdom of some of those decisions and changes. Of course, I don't have all the context so maybe I am missing something. I certainly have this feeling of wanting NI to return back to the way it was when I was first introduced to them. The nostalgia has certainly blinded me. As I sit and reflect, I realize that some of those changes were certainly good and needed, even welcomed. Like others I complain about the lack of local sales reps and the deteriorating relationship, and yet I am now a LabVIEW Champion and in some ways have a closer relationship with NI than I ever have, even if it is different. I guess you have to embrace the fact that things change and take the good with the bad.

The Future

The last chapter of the book talks about NI's Strategy for the future. As I mentioned I've certainly questioned some of NI's decision-making lately so this chapter was very informative. The book was released in 2020, so it's up to date enough to make it relevant to what is going on today. It talks a lot about how NI's strategy is changing. It foreshadows a lot of the decisions that NI has made since the book was published. If you are confused by some of NI's recent decisions (as I was), it's worth reading. It clarifies some things. I can't say it's changed my mind and made me happy about some of their recent decisions, but it has definitely given some context and made those decisions a little easier to swallow.


Overall the book leaves me feeling hopeful about the future of NI. The founders definitely had a great vision. It has served them well so far. The book is a chronicle of that. It is quite inspiring what they were able to achieve and the manner in which they did it. As the last remaining founder, Jeff Kodosky, finally retires I hope that vision doesn't retire with him. That would be a shame.