What are Embedded Systems?


Any electronic system that uses a CPU chip, but that is not a general-purpose workstation, desktop or laptop computer. Such systems generally use microprocessors, or they may use custom-designed chips or both. They are used in automobiles, planes, trains, space vehicles, machine tools, cameras, consumer and office appliances, cellphones, PDAs and other handhelds as well as robots and toys. The uses are endless, and billions of microprocessors are shipped every year for a myriad of applications. Although there are embedded versions of popular operating systems, low-cost consumer products can use chips that cost less than a dollar and have very limited storage for instructions. In such cases, the OS and application may be combined into one program.

In embedded systems, the software is permanently set into a read-only memory such as a ROM or flash memory chip, in contrast to a general-purpose computer that loads its programs into RAM each time. Sometimes, single board and rack mounted general-purpose computers are called "embedded computers" if used to control a single printer, drill press or other such device. See smart car, Windows XP Embedded, Embedded Linux and embedded language.

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