Introduction to Embedded Systems

on Wednesday, 11 September 2013

To start this article with what exactly the term Embedded system stands for, I don't want to go in-depth with all the fancy words to define it, I'm going to speak in plain English. 'Embedded' is 'built in', while the system refers to a combination of hardware and software. As a whole Embedded system is nothing but a 'system with hardware and software for performing  some real time task'.

Microcontroller and Microprocessors often see the term embedded system. As we are dealing only with the micro-controller, we only concern with it.

A microcontroller is a small computer on a small chip, all the components like RAM, ROM, Memory modules, Timers, etc. are embedded on a chip. It looks something like this shown below


The First Microcontroller is the 8051 microcontroller manufactured by Intel and since then the face of electronics has been changed drastically. There are wide varieties of the microcontroller are available in the market  by various companies like Atmel family, PIC family, 8051family, etc..


If I start giving the list of appliances which works on microcontroller not even this blog is enough. So lets see few appliances which works on this tiny chip.

Did you ever notice the scrolling message led displays, have you not amazed with it and don't you thought how they work, it's all possible because of this small chip Microcontroller. We find microcontroller in every electronic home device, like washing machine, wifi routers, security systems, calculators, garage door openers, cable tv tuners, video games, camera, remote controls, so on...

How we do?

We write a program in the way in which our micro controller need to behave, we port or burn the program into the microcontroller using a burner (in a similar way as we use CD burner to burn the CD ROM), after certain hardware connections it works as we wish to work it.

As a beginner, it's a little confusing at the start but as we go through all other posts you will understand it more clearly. Let's see step by step


We write a program on a computer with a software, in general we use assemble level language or C language. By using  compilers/assemblers we convert this program into a low level language i.e 0's and 1's. After conversion we get a file with extension ' .Hex '


If we want to copy any data into our memory cards we use 'card reader/writer' device by connecting to our computer and we perform our task. In the same way , if we want to burn (write) our program into the 'microcontroller' we use a device called "burner" or "programmer" . We connect this "programmer" or "burner" to the PC and we write '.hex' file into the micro controller.


After all the necessary connections are made (connecting Inputs and outputs etc) after proper power supply it works exactly the way we wrote program into the 'microcontroller'.

Suppose we want to blink few leds say 5 leds which are connected to the microcontroller. we follow all the above 3 steps, i.e we write program, next burn it, next hardware connections. 
One thing we need to note is, how do we know that our program exactly works in the same way we want it to work. We can't sure that the program we are writing gives exact results which we are expecting. For real time projects its very time consuming to check whether our program is working rightly on the hardware or not. So, we use a software called as "SIMULATOR" , they act as virtual hardware i.e rather than burning(writing) our program into the real microcontroller we use simulator software to check whether our program is working as our expectations or not.

One of the famous simulator is "PROTEUS ISIS" software.

In consequent posts you will well understand all these concepts and you will do many exciting projects on real hardware too.



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