Will Strauss, Principal Analyst, Forward Concepts
RCRWireless (November 20, 2013)
Digital signal processing is the key technology that enables connection from humans (and machines) to the Internet, whether by wire or wireless. Furthermore, there is no digital multimedia without DSP technology. The technology has become pervasive in virtually all modern communications and entertainment devices. Digital signal processing is distinct from traditional computing in that it is the mathematical manipulation of information signals to modify or improve them in some way. In short, DSP is math-intensive; far more so than traditional computers, thus requiring a unique architecture.
In the past, I have conducted on-line surveys related to DSP use, in the beginning for discrete DSP chips and later as system-on-a-chip DSP technology implementations. In one of those early surveys, devoted primarily to discrete chips, I had posed the question: “What percentage of the processor is devoted to DSP as opposed to CPU functionality?” The answer surprised me: less than 50%. Since I was addressing a DSP chip, I expected that DSP functionality would be dominant; but that was not the case. Certainly, there had to be at least a scheduler and perhaps a real-time operating system managing the DSP activity, but obviously, there was more to do, like handshaking in a modem application. But, there were no high-level compilers for DSP in those days and all programming was in assembly language (ouch!). When digital cellphones reached the market in the early 1990′s, the DSP functionality was through SoC implementation for both the speech and modem processing functions. However, the DSP cores for the new 2G modems were usually paired with a small ARM7 processor since the ARM CPU was easier to program for the more complex handshaking protocol and could handle notepad functions as well.
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