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Just What Is an Embedded System?

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ggman02
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Not a computer
ggman02   6/10/2014 5:53:06 PM
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I always heard an embedded system described as an object that uses a microprocessor (or microcontroller) but you don't immediately identify it as a computer or even a computing device. Hence, a router is an embedded system just as the IP phone sitting on my desk. A smartphone doesn't qualify since many would identify them as computing devices. 

mhrackin
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Ancient View
mhrackin   6/10/2014 5:22:43 PM
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As one whose computer experience goes back to the (vacuum tube) IBM 709 s/n 1 and DEC PDP-1 (also s/n 1), here's my perspective.  A really simple version (that few would even understand today)is "embedded systems run firmware, not software." It's a little more high-level view similar to the memory type debate already flogged above. The original "embedded systems" folks were almost exclusively EEs by training, who worked "both sides of the fence" (HW and FW) with equal ease.  IMHO, the best still are!

JoeAB
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Re: embedded system definition
JoeAB   6/10/2014 4:33:06 PM
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My former employer sold embedded computers that were intended to be programmed by the user, in C or Ladder Logic. The user interfaces were all external, some dedicated and some general purpose HMI. The company only developed and sold one application that ran on the platforms.

DU00000001
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embedded system definition
DU00000001   6/10/2014 12:26:49 PM
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@all

I'm a bit late into the discussion, anyway ...

Until recently (20 years ago?) I would have defined "embedded system" as any electronically controlled system having no (discernible as such) user interface.

In the age of copying machines with hard disks, washing machines and dish washers under processor control I'd level it to "no discernible or a fixed (static) user interface".

Thinking of set-top boxes, modems etc. - nowadays typically running under Linux control - the user interface is the property still differentiating the - per se general purpose - control unit in the set-top box from the similar control unit in your smart phone.
Even this border is blurring when thinking about smart TVs. Though not offering "full" general purpose capabilities, web browser and other apps are stretching the above definition of "embedded system" to the point where the smart TV control unit is no longer classified as a such.

Simple were the times where you could differentiate by asking "which processor (resp. controller) ?".

MeasurementBlues
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Function is irrelevant
MeasurementBlues   6/10/2014 11:36:28 AM
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As the test guy around here I don't care what embedded systems do. I only want to know how to test them.

One step further.

Reminds me of one time I was at the Measurement Science conference. Some sales guy in a booth wanted to some someone his latest oscilloscope. The booth visitor only cared about how to calibrate it the scope, not what it did.

Wnderer
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Re: Programming Closer to the Hardware
Wnderer   6/10/2014 10:44:53 AM
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@David Ashton...could it be that it comes from the first microcontroller chips with the program memory (and hence the program itself) embedded in the microprocessor chip


I don't think so. The first projects I worked on that I would have called an embedded system all had 8051's with external RAM and ROM. I would have called it embedded programming on my resume to indicate that I wasn't writing application programs on a computer. I was dealing with ports, peripherals, busses, interupts, etc.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: I could be rich
Max The Magnificent   6/10/2014 10:32:41 AM
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@antedeluvian: ...the earliest refernce I could find was here in 1986...

Very interesting -- thanks so much for this

Max The Magnificent
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Re: embedded system definition
Max The Magnificent   6/10/2014 10:30:54 AM
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@Great_White_North: My definition:  Any electronics which perform as an integral part of a larger system.

I can live with that.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Definition and history
Max The Magnificent   6/10/2014 10:28:51 AM
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@betajet: ...if the rocket crashes -- deliberately or otherwise -- the computer is embedded pretty deeply...

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

antedeluvian
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Re: Humpty Dumpty
antedeluvian   6/10/2014 8:43:11 AM
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David

Do you know what they used to say when they landed at Bulawayo?? :-)

I think we should clarify for the readers that I was born and grew up in Bulawayo.

 

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