Embedded Systems

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An embedded system is a special-purpose computer system, which is completely encapsulated by the device it controls. An embedded system has specific requirements and performs pre-defined tasks, unlike a general-purpose personal computer.They run the computing devices hidden inside an every day product or piece of equipment such as digital cameras, mobile phones, microwave ovens and also portable game consoles, satellites and advanced military and medical equipment.


  • Invention of transistors
  • Invention of micro processors
  • Invention of integrated circuits
  • Mobility (portable gaming)
  • Need for more functionality
  • Software delevopment tools
  • Moore's law (increasing processing power)


  • The increasing complexity to develop chips (productivity gap)
  • The increasing power density
  • Power Dissipation
  • Evolution of the EDA Industry (Unavailable EDA Tools)


  • Multifuntional devices which will make the world smaller.
  • Embedded system will change the way we live by making it more convienent.
  • "Social Network effect", portable games will have a positive impact on our social life .


Dr. Ir. Bart Kienhuis, Leiden Embedded Research Center


In the early 1900 commercially electronic products were not available. So how did we create all electronic products as we know them today?

It all started in 1904 with the invention of the vacuum tube. The vacuum tube was the first electronic device that controlled the flow of electrons in a vacuum. Early vacuum tubes were used to amplify signals for radio and other audio devices and we are still using them in monitors and TVs.

In 1948 a revolutionary invention took place, the invention of the transistor, which made computing as we know it today possible. It was invented at Bell Telephone Laboratories by a team led by physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockleyand. But what is a transistor? The transistor is an electronic switch which is made from semi conductor material. The electronic switch is open if no voltage is applied to the gate or base and closed when voltage is applied.

The invention of the transistor is the backbone of embedded systems and created a boom in electronic development and commercially electronic products. After this important invention, different techniques were slowly developed for putting more and more transistors on a small chip, so that a single chip could perform more complex functions. For example, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments started to integrate multiple transistors in calculators in 1958. He created the first integrated circuit (IC).

After the invention of integrated circuits revolutionized computer design, the only place to go was down in size. In 1971, the world's first single chip microprocessor the Intel 4004 was introduced. In comparison with the integrated circuits the Intel 4004 was smaller in size. In addition, this microprocessor included all the parts that made a computer think. It included a CPU, memory and input and output controls on one small chip. According to Intel “Programming intelligence into inanimate objects had now become possible”. Further, the Intel 4004 was a 4-bit microprocessor and contained about 1000 transistors which were mainly used for the compute function.

Today most computers contain a 64-bit Pentium 4 processors with about 42 million transistors build in. In this Pentium processor, transistors which have a compute function are only a small part. Thus, how more transistors on a chip, the less are used for the compute function.

Web Resources:

Embedded Systems - wikipedia.org
Hogeschool Zeeland
Embedded Systems Internet Resources

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