An embedded system is a combination of computer hardware and software, either fixed in capability or programmable, designed for a specific function or functions within a larger system.
Industrial machines, agricultural and process industry devices, automobiles, medical equipment, cameras, household appliances, airplanes, vending machines and toys, as well as mobile devices, are possible locations for an embedded system.
Embedded systems date back to the 1960s. Charles Stark Draper developed an integrated circuit in 1961 to reduce the size and weight of the Apollo Guidance Computer, the digital system installed on the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module. The first computer to use ICs, it helped astronauts collect real-time flight data.
This was followed up in 1965 when Autonetics, now a part of Boeing, developed the D-17B, the computer used in the Minuteman I missile guidance system. It is widely recognized as the first mass-produced embedded system. When the Minuteman II went into production in 1966, the D-17B was replaced with the NS-17 missile guidance system, known for its high-volume use of integrated circuits. In 1968, the first embedded system for a vehicle was released — the Volkswagen 1600 used a microprocessor to control its electronic fuel injection system.
The big breakthrough came in 1987 with the first embedded operating system – the real-time VxWorks – which was released by Wind River, followed by Microsoft’s Windows Embedded CE in 1996. Soon after, the first embedded Linux products began to appear.
Today, Linux is used in almost all embedded devices such as:
- Consumer electronics
- Smart TVs
- Networking equipment
- Machine control
- Industrial automation
- Navigation equipment
- Medical instruments
- Spacecraft flight software
Want to know more about embedded systems? Tonex offers Embedded Systems Engineering Certificate Training, a 4-day course that covers all aspects of developing reliable real-time embedded systems including hardware and software.
Additionally, Tonex offers nearly 400 classes, seminars and workshops in close to four dozen categories of systems engineering training.
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