The successful development of any complex control system requires a blend of good software management, an appropriate computer architecture and good software engineering. Due to the large number of controlled parts, high performance goals and required operational efficiency, the control systems for large telescopes are particularly challenging to develop and maintain.
In this paper the authors highlight some of the specific challenges that need to be met by control system developers to meet the requirements within a limited budget and schedule. They share some of the practices applied during the development of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and describe specific aspects of the design that contribute to meeting these challenges. The topics discussed include: development methodology, defining the level of system integration, computer architecture, interface management, software standards, language selection, user interface design and personnel selection.
Time will reveal the full truth, but the authors believe that the significant progress achieved in commissioning SALT (now 6 months from telescope completion), can largely be attributed to the combined application of these practices and design concepts.