Optical and Photonic Solutions Blog


Reflections on the 45th Anniversary of CODE V as a Commercial Software Product

The origins of CODE V started long before its first commercial release on August 1, 1975. Tom Harris, the founder of Optical Research Associates (ORA®) and a University of Rochester Institute of Optics alumnus, was very interested in the potential of automated optical design while at his first job at Bell and Howell Company in Chicago in the 1950’s. Tom helped program accounting machines to do ray tracing, and participated in the transition from plug boards to programming using machine language, programming using assembly language, and finally programming in FORTRAN –a very “modern” language at the time. In 1963, Tom founded ORA as an engineering services company in Pasadena, California. The precursor to CODE V served essentially as “in-house” software to support the ORA engineering business. Tom and his first “Associate,” Darryl Gustafson, would design by day and program by night!

As the reputation of ORA’s software spread, designers from other companies would come to the ORA facility in Pasadena and lease time with the program. This not only included local designers, but designers from Chicago, Japan, and elsewhere. In 1975, the software was packaged with a minicomputer as a turnkey system, and CODE V as a standalone product was born. It may come as a surprise that CODE V is an acronym for Computer-aided Optical Design and Evaluation Version “5”. In 1982, CODE V Version 6.95 was released. This was the first version of CODE V that I used as an optical designer with Texas Instruments in 1982. A photo of the user manual is shown below:

CODE V Designer's Reference Manual

One of Tom’s great early insights was to base CODE V’s optimization error function on image quality components only, and use a separate method to solve for constraints exactly. Even today, this is one of the key strengths of the CODE V local optimizer. CODE V was the first (and sometimes only) commercial optical design software to introduce many features and capabilities, including:

  • Zoom lens optimization (1975)
  • Fast MTF tolerancing (1978)
  • Partial coherence analysis (1980)
  • Interactive Tolerancing & Automatic System Alignment (1986)
  • Non-sequential surface ray tracing (1988)
  • MTF optimization (1991)
  • Global optimization (1992)
  • Astigmatic light sources (1995)
  • Fiber coupling efficiency analysis (1996)
  • Generalized Beam Propagation (1999)
  • Fiber coupling efficiency optimization & tolerancing (2001)
  • Integrated scalar diffraction efficiency (2005)
  • Microlithographic critical dimension analysis and tolerancing (2007)
  • Mid-spatial frequency surface error modeling (2009)
  • Asphere Expert and Glass Expert Tools (2011)
  • Effective tolerance desensitization in optimization (2012)
  • Step optimization for improved convergence (2013)
  • Image Simulation for hyper-hemispherical fields of view (2014)
  • The SpecBuilder Interface (2018)

And many more features, too numerous to list.

CODE V Features - Examples

CODE V has been a key tool for NASA’s Great Observatory missions such as Chandra, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In fact, the ORA Engineering Services team and several customers using CODE V were heavily involved in the 1st Servicing Mission of the HST. CODE V has been used for pretty much any imaging application you can imagine including optical systems for automotive, medical, industrial, aerospace, government, and consumer systems. One key to its success has been the superior Customer Service team that help our customers get the most from their CODE V investment.

Hubble Space Telescope

On a personal note, I can honestly say that CODE V helped me to be a better optical designer than I otherwise would have been, both at Texas Instruments and with the Engineering Services group of Optical Research Associates. Part of this was due to the power and flexibility of CODE V’s Macro-PLUS language (introduced in 1985), and its integration with the incredibly efficient command-line interface that CODE V still supports today (as well as an easy-to-use graphical user interface). I moved to ORA’s Software and Marketing side of the business in 1999, and have been proud to serve as the CODE V Product Manager since 2003, including through ORA’s acquisition by Synopsys in 2010. The mission of the entire CODE V Team of Algorithm Experts, Software Developers, Test Engineers, Documentation Specialists and the Product Marketing Team is—and always has been—to make customers more successful.  I have been fortunate to work with such a tremendous group of talented individuals.

CODE V Product Manager, Dave Hasenauer. Photo taken at Mt. Fuji in Japan, July 2011.
CODE V Product Manager, Dave Hasenauer. Photo taken at Mt. Fuji in Japan, July 2011.

Happy 45th Anniversary, CODE V!