By Ata Khan, Cypress SemiconductorEmbedded.com (10/21/08, 01:25:00 AM EDT)
Embedded processors are everywhere. Almost everything powered by electricity has an embedded processor for the control or processing functions (or both) required by the application. The proliferation and the ever-increasing sophistication of these processors over more than three decades have been driven by decreasing costs and increasing processing and controlling power.
Moore's law, competitive pressure, and rapid innovation in consumer devices have led to everyday devices incorporating machines that have the same processing power that mainframe enterprise computers delivered not so long ago.
Much of this innovation has been driven by human consumer behavior that, after a while, tends to ignore linear improvements but responds strongly to exponential advances, thus driving the push to more powerful systems with more features and more complexity. As a consequence, it is now common for consumer devices to incorporate embedded processors with processing power in triple-digit MIPS,
Gigabytes of storage, and access to all kinds of commonly used communication protocols is not a problem with respect to the hardware available (the processors themselves) nor to the software development tools, operating systems, or compilers. In addition, the embedded designers themselves have the capacity to understand the evolving hardware and software and to use them to build marketable applications.
Rather, the problems that complexity brings are related to the fact that human design bandwidth has not grown at the same rate as processing power. As a result, ever-increasing complexity brings inevitable delays and simply adding people is not the answer as many well-known books on productivity (The Mythical Man-Month is perhaps the best known) have shown.
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