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Just What Is an Embedded System?

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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.

 

David Ashton
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Re: Programming Closer to the Hardware
David Ashton   6/9/2014 11:39:10 PM
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@Wnderer...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)  So not the old 8080 / 6800 systems that had a seperate EPROM, but the first 8051 / 8049 type chips that had built in (ie embedded) EPROMs?

David Ashton
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Re: Humpty Dumpty
David Ashton   6/9/2014 11:33:21 PM
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@Antedeluvian... "Since I was in South Africa at the time, trends travelled slowy (As the pilots used to say: "Ladies and Gentlemen- we are about to land at Johannesburg Airport, please set you watches back ten years..."

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

(for non-Zimbabwean readers - Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second city after Harare.  Harare has always been known as "Bamba Zonke" - local pidgin for "Gets everything".  However I always liked going to Bulawayo. It wasn't as rushed as Harare.  The streets were, allegedly by edict of Cecil Rhodes, wide enough to turn a wagon with a span of oxen.  I remember once I was parked near a customer and kept going out to check and refill my parking meter.  The third time I was too late and had a fine - all of $3.  In Harare at the time it would have been $20.  So I have a fairly soft spot for "Bullies"!)

I've always understood "Embedded" to mean a computer in something whose primary purpose is not being a computer.  So a phone, a washing machine, an electricity meter, etc.  Which pretty much tallies with the Wikipedia definition?

antedeluvian
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Re: I could be rich
antedeluvian   6/9/2014 6:59:29 PM
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Susan, Max

Embedded.com is riddled with debates like this, and that publication coined the term (supposed from some Intel engineers in the 1980s).

The earliest Intel databook in my scanned collection that uses the word "embedded processor" is a 1988 catalog. I played around on google and the earliest refernce I could find was here in 1986. Presumably the use developed prior to that.

 

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