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Silicon Prairie: In embedded engineering, less is more

Nov 18, 2000, 23:47 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric Ridvan Uner)

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"...I'm proud that unlike many software developers, I know how to work smarter, not just harder. Embedded design is a much more demanding task than traditional software development. It requires a different mindset and sometimes intimate knowledge of a system's hardware and software components. As each new version of Microsoft Word gets bigger and bigger, users upgrade their PCs to compensate. Meanwhile, embedded engineers are constantly thinking of ways to accomplish their goals using fewer resources and smaller code."

"These days you can't open up a single trade magazine without seeing an ad for a new Internet appliance. Companies are releasing "embedded Internet appliances" at an increasing rate - but a closer look often reveals that they're just personal computers in a different package. Some even run Linux and Windows NT. These so-called Internet appliances aren't embedded systems any more than hot dogs are haute cuisine."

"Linux and Microsoft Windows developers alike know that Linux and Windows are simply not good candidates for an embedded operating system simply because of the platforms' complexity and size, but that hasn't stopped them from trying their best to break into the coveted real-time operating system market (RTOS). Several vendors make embeddable versions of Linux. Not to be left out, Microsoft has Windows CE, an embeddable version of Windo out, Microsoft has Windows CE, an embeddable version of Windows. But would you trust Microsoft to be the operating system for your pacemaker? What if Linux were running the flight control system of your airplane at 30,000 feet? Both operating systems suffer from unneeded complexities required to facilitate the general-purpose programming environments for which they were originally designed. Embedding them is like buying a car and parking it in your living room so that you can use its CD player as a home stereo."

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