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A program for bar graphs of lab activity.

A program for bar graphs of lab activity

The bar graph is a convenient way to display changing data over a period of time. Its effect is rapid --the viewer quickly sees trends and relative highs and lows--but its construction can be very slow. A graph takes a lot of time to produce by hand when you try different scales to determine which will best demonstrate the data.

Our answer to this problem is a computer program. After a few minutes of input, it charts a year's worth of monthly data (test volume, staffing, or revenue, for example) and lets you tinker with the dimensions of the graph by lengthening or shortening all of the bars (Figure I). The scale is changed within seconds.

I wrote the program in BASIC (Figure II) for the Commodore 64 and an MPS 801 printer. Although it is usually considered a hobby microcomputer, the 64 can perform a variety of tasks in a smaller laboratory, including compilation of organism and susceptibility data for microbiology.

The program first prompts the user to give the graph a title. Then the word January appears on the computer screen, and the user enters the total (of whatever is being charted) for that month. A stroke of the return key brings the next month onto the screen for data entry. The process continues through December. In the graph itself, the months are represented by their initial letters, from J for January at the top of the vertical axis to D for December at the bottom.

After monthly data entry, the user is asked to enter a maximum and a minimum limit. These limits are the highest and lowest numbers along the horizontal axis of the graph. The range is automatically divided into five parts, and the intermediate numbers are shown. A print/redimension scale/ stop prompt accompanying the graph on the screen gives the user the choice of printing the graph as is, rescaling it by changing the limits, or leaving the program.

The top half of Figure I shows two versions of a graph of blood culture volume. The dimensions of the second version more effectively highlight the busiest months--May, September, and October. Three such versions will fit easily on an 8 1/2 11 page that is left in the printer while the user experiments with graph dimensions. Graphs covering different activities can also go on one page.

I'll be glad to copy the program for readers who send a disk and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to me at the Microbiology Laboratory, St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Yakima, Wash. 98902.

Photo: Figure I Rescaling graphs to highlight data

At the left, top and bottom, each graph has a minimum limit of 0 on the horizontal axis. Raising the limit (right) puts greater distance between the bars for low- and high-volume months.

Photo: Figure II The bar graph program
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Anna, E. Joseph
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Aug 1, 1986
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