developerWorks: Robots and Networked Appliances on a Shoestring

“An attractive, speedy route to developing complex, initially
loosely specified applications that have a mix of real-time and
non-real-time components is to take a fairly powerful x86-based
PC-compatible single-board computer running Linux, and use a
slenderized custom software bundle on that machine to control a
bevy of assorted small microcontrollers configured to handle the
hard real-time tasks in the system.

“You save development time principally from the fact that you
can buy off-the-shelf hardware for most of the functions to be
carried out on the PC; you can use an off-the-shelf operating
system, and you can use ready-rolled device drivers that have
already been debugged for you, for the most part…”

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