So What’s All This “Embedded System” Stuff, Anyhow?

When people ask me what I do, if I mention “embedded systems”, it usually just produces a blank look!

So let’s start this blog with a plain-words description of what an “embedded system” means.

It has been said that there is more computing power in your car today than was used to put men on the moon in the Apollo missions – but you wouldn’t think of  your car as a computer, would you?

This is the key to an embedded system: it is something that provides computing power, but is hidden – or “embedded” – within something that is not a computer!

So, back at the car, where is this “not-a-computer” hiding? Where is it “embedded”? In fact, there is not just one – there are many! The key one, central to the operation of the car itself, is the engine management computer; another one manages the anti-lock brakes; one for the air conditioning; one for the central locking; one in the radio; and, probably, several more…

These days, embedded systems are increasingly taking over things that used to be done by mechanical controls: washing machines; central heating timers; etc, etc…

Quite possibly, the free toy with the kids meal from a hamburger restaurant contains a tiny embedded system to flash the lights and play the annoying tune!

Hopefully this has given some meaning to the term “embedded system”. They can be big, they can be tiny; they can be essential, they can be trivial – but they are all around us in the modern world!

So long for now,


Antronics Ltd – Embedded Systems Specialists

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