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Thread: "embedded"
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On Wed, 27 Sep 2017, Sean Breheny wrote:

> To me, embedded has always meant a computer system built for a specific
> purpose where the user is very unlikely to run software of his own choosing
> on it. It doesn't fundamentally have much to do with resource constraints..
> Also the user interface of an embedded system is usually specialized for
> its purpose - often having only a few buttons or a basic touchscreen with
> no facility for a full keyboard.

Many years ago I had to write a program for a "till" (point of sale terminal). At its heart was a Z80, a mix of RAM / EPROM (upto 64k), a dot matrix (plasma) display, a keyboard (a large array of mechanical switches) a dot matrix printer (mechanical pin head), a magnetic stripe reader/writer (on cardboard), a current loop serial interface and the draw lock solonoid. Although this hardware was capable of running many different kinds of programs it had one dedicated function. I consider the program I wrote for this system to be truely embedded. There was a great deal of hardware control going on.

Many years later I was part of a team writing code for another point of sale terminal. Our software was highly abstracted and ran on OS/2. I consider this program to be an application running on hardware with a dedicated function.

Although both systems had cores capable of general purpose use the first had a program that was tightly coupled to the hardware. The second had a program sitting on top of an OS that provided services to it.

In my opinion, a product that has a computer inside it can be correctly described as having an embedded computer but programming it should only be described as embedded programming if the code does not rely on an underlying OS. I would view such code as being an application even if it does perform a little bit of hardware manipulation (e.g. flashing a LED, controlling a servo or reading a switch).

So in my view I would consider that programming an embedded computer is moving away from true embedded programming towards application programming. Perhaps the term being sought is "embedded application programming" - I know this isn't one word but these are the lemons I have :-)

Regards
Sergio Masci

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