Robert Cravotta, Embedded Insights Inc
EDN (October 18, 2012)
This series of articles on processor architectures asks, "Can a single processor architecture do it all, and if so, would it be a good idea?" Part one begins with a brief overview of the processor architecture ecosystem.
Much like Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings, the ecosystem for embedded and computing systems is home to a diverse population. Instead of elves, dwarves, Hobbits, and humans, all manner of processor architectures inhabit the compute and embedded-processing ecosystem. The various microprocessors, digital signal processors, and microcontrollers implement different optimization choices to meet system designers’ myriad design requirements.
That analogy occurred to me as I read a number of recent articles and public online discussions. Collectively, they ask two questions that implicitly share the same underlying architecture: Are 8-bit processors dying, and is ARM winning the processor war? The articles and discussions all suggest that the ARM architecture will be the one to put the final nail in the coffin of smaller-bit-width microcontrollers and will possibly even crowd out other 32-bit microprocessors in other application spaces. In this rapidly evolving ecosystem, can the ARM architecture become the one to rule them all?
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