What Are Embedded Systems?


An object stable steadfastly and intensely in a surrounding mass; surrounded.

Example: “A gold ring with nine embedded stones”

Embedded Systems:

An embedded system is a mixture of computer hardware and software, fixed in fitness or programmable, designed for a specific function or functions within a larger system.


  1. HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) Systems
  2. ABS (Anti-lock braking) System.


The Apollo Guidance Computer is remarked as the first embedded system. It was developed in 1965 by Charles Stark Draper at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. The Autonetics D-17 guidance computer was a primary mass-produced embedded system released in 1961. The D-17 guidance computer was replaced with a new computer when the Minuteman II went into production in 1966. That signified the first high-volume use of combined circuits. The Intel 4004 was released in 1971. It was planned for calculators and other small systems. This is still essential for external memory and support chips.

The memory input and output system components had been combined into the same chip as the processor creating a microcontroller by the early 1980s. A reasonably low-cost microcontroller may be automated to achieve the equivalent role as a big number of distinct components nowadays. It developed possibly with controllers to substitute, expensive knob-based analog components. The components for example; potentiometers and variable capacitors with up and down buttons or knobs read out by a microprocessor.


Normally, the embedded systems are originating in industrial, consumer, home appliances, and automotive, medical, telecommunication, commercial, and military applications. Many embedded systems serve in telecommunications systems for telephone switches and for the network to cell phones at the end-user. As concern the consumer electronics, it contains television sets, MP3 players, mobile phones, video game consoles, digital cameras, GPS receivers, and printers. Home appliances include the washing machine, microwave ovens, and dishwashers. The HVAC systems practice interacted thermostats to additional precisely and competently control the temperature which may change by time of day and season. The embedded system is being used in transportation systems from flight to automobiles.

It is also used in medical equipment for monitoring and numerous medical imaging. The Embedded systems inside medical equipment are frequently driven by industrial computers. The embedded system may be planned to have a better ability to grip higher temperatures and carry on to operate for fire safety. This can be independent and be able to compact with cut electrical and communication systems in dealing with security.


Rather than be a general-purpose computer for multiple tasks, the embedded systems are aimed to prepare some specific task. Similarly, some have real-time performance limitations for reasons such as safety and usability. The others might have low or no performance desires to permit the system hardware to be easy to reduce costs. Numerous embedded systems comprise lesser parts within a larger device that helps a more general purpose. An embedded system in an automobile delivers a definite function as a subsystem of the carriage itself. The program instructions written for embedded systems are mentioned as firmware. These are kept in read-only memory or flash memory chips. They run with limited computer hardware resources such as a small screen, nonexistent keyboard, and little memory.

Components of Embedded Systems Programming

  • Microprocessors/ Microcontrollers
  • Peripherals
  • Sensors & Input devices
  • Actuators & output devices
  • Registers
  • Protocols


The microprocessor is a computer processor that joins the functions of a central processing unit on a single IC. The microprocessor is a versatile, register-based, clock-driven digital integrated circuit. As input, it takes binary data, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and delivers results as output.

  • It’s an IC that only has a CPU (Processing power).
  • They find applications where tasks are unspecified like developing games, websites, photo editing, etc.
  • They run operating systems.


A microcontroller is a system on a chip. Unlike computers, which have many discrete parts it has all CPUs (Processors cores), memory, and input/output peripherals. This creates it possible to build systems with a minimal part count.

  • It has a CPU along with RAM, ROM, and other peripherals all on a single chip.
  • They are designed to perform specific tasks. (i.e. cars, bikes, microwave)
  • They run bare-metal


A peripheral or peripheral device is an auxiliary device used to put information into and get information out of the computer. Embedded systems negotiate with the outside world through peripherals. Below are examples of peripherals.

  • SCI or Serial Communication Interfaces: RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, etc.
  • Synchronous Serial Communication Interface: I2C, SPI, SSC
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB)
  • MMC or Multi Media Cards (SD cards, Compact Flash, etc.)
  • Networks: Ethernet, LonWorks, etc.
  • Fieldbuses: CAN-Bus, LIN-Bus, PROFIBUS, etc.
  • Timers: PLL(s), Capture/Compare, and Time Processing Units
  • Discrete IO: aka General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO)
  • Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog (ADC/DAC)
  • Debugging such as JTAG, ISP, BDM Port, BITP, and DB9 ports.

Sensors & Input devices

Sensors are refined devices that are often used to identify and reply to electrical or optical signals.


  • Temperature sensor
  • IR (PIR) sensor
  • Touch sensor
  • Pressure sensor

Actuators & output devices

An actuator is a constituent of a machine that is accountable for moving and controlling a mechanism or system, for example by opening a valve.


  • Electric motor
  • Screw jack
  • Hydraulic Cylinder


A processor register or CPU register is one of a slight set of data holding places that are slices of the computer processor. A register can grip an instruction, a storage address, or any kind of data for example a minute sequence or separate characters. Various commands require registers as part of the instruction. For instance, an instruction can stipulate that the contents of two defined registers be added together and then placed in a specified register.


A protocol is a typical set of rules which permit electronic devices to communicate with each other. These rules cover what type of data can be transmitted, what commands are used to send and receive data, and how data transfers are confirmed.


  • I2C: Inter-Integrated Circuit
  • SPI: Serial Peripheral Interface
  • USART/UART: Universal Synchronous/Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter

Mansoor Ahmed

Mansoor Ahmed is Chemical Engineer, web developer, a Tech writer currently living in Pakistan. My interests range from technology to web development. I am also interested in programming, writing, and reading.