A Beginner's Guide to Embedded Systems

Manasi Rajan December 6, 2022

I was in my Junior year of college when I first learned about embedded systems. Sure, I’d heard about this mystical world of sensors and IoT, the same way I’d heard about thermonuclear astrophysics; But, the phrase “embedded systems” didn’t really mean anything to me. This, here, is a guide for people like teenage me. We’re going to learn what an embedded system actually is, and why working on embedded software is the coolest thing you could ever do!

What's an embedded...

Five ‘80s Movies that Inspired Me to Become an Engineer

Jacob Beningo July 20, 20226 comments

Five ‘80s Movies that Inspired Me to Become an Engineer

Movies and pop culture can incredibly impact society, particularly children. However, we never really know what conversation, demonstration, or movie could inspire someone to become an engineer. Recently in the Beningo house, we ran out of the film to watch for movie night. In desperation, I decided to find great movies from my childhood in the 80s. To my surprise, I realized how influential several of these films inspired me to...

Learning Rust For Embedded Systems

Steve Branam November 12, 2021
The Motivational Portion

Based on recommendations from Kevin Nause, the VolksEEG project is considering using Rust as the embedded system programming language. So I've been off on a tear skimming books and e-books and watching videos at 2x to evaluate it.

My conclusion? Do it!

Most of the rest of us participants are primarily C/C++ embedded developers. I had previously been sensitized to Rust for embedded systems by 

VolksEEG Project: Initial Hardware Architecture

Steve Branam November 2, 20211 comment

The initial hardware architecture for the prototype VolksEEG uses an Adafruit Feather nRF52840 Sense, which connects to a PC via USB for UI (User Interface). Through several additional chips, this provides power to and acquires data from the ADS1299 ADC.

An important topic I mentioned in my introduction to the project is isolation, ensuring there is no conductive path for current through the patient. The architecture is therefore split into...

Examining The Stack For Fun And Profit

Steve Branam February 19, 20201 comment

Well, maybe not so much for profit, but certainly for fun. This is a wandering journey of exploration and discovery, learning a variety of interesting and useful things.

One of the concerns with an embedded system is how much memory it needs, known as the memory footprint. This consists of the persistent storage needed for the program (i.e. the flash memory or filesystem space that stores the executable image), and the volatile storage needed to hold the data while executing over long...

Review: Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers

Steve Branam September 20, 20202 comments

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for evaluation.

Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers: Building real-time embedded systems using FreeRTOS, STM32 MCUs, and SEGGER debug tools by Brian Amos is an outstanding book. It lives up to its name, extremely hands-on and practical, taking you from knowing nothing about RTOS's (Real-Time Operating Systems) up to building real multithreaded embedded system applications running on real hardware.

It uses the ST Micro

Tenderfoot: Embedded Software and Firmware Specialties

Matthew Eshleman August 20, 20179 comments

Once upon a time (seven years ago) I answered a question on Stack Overflow. Then Stephane suggested I turn that answer into a blog post. Great idea! This post dives deeper into the original question: “Is it possible to fragment this field (embedded software and firmware) into sub-fields?”

This post represents a detailed and updated response to my original Stack Overflow answer. I hope this post provides guidance and useful information to the “tenderfoots” in the...

UML Statechart tip: Handling errors when entering a state

Matthew Eshleman March 8, 20204 comments

This is my second post with advice and tips on designing software with UML statecharts. My first entry is here.

It has been nearly 20 years since I first studied UML statecharts. Since that initial exposure (thank you Samek!), I have applied event driven active object statechart designs to numerous projects [3]. Nothing has abated my preference for this pattern in my firmware and embedded software projects. Through the years I have taken note of a handful of common challenges when...

Bit-Banged Async Serial Output And Disciplined Engineering

Steve Branam August 3, 2023

This post covers implementing asynchronous serial output directly on a GPIO with bit-banging. This can be a valuable debug tool for getting information out of a system. It also covers disciplined engineering, using the bit-banging module as an example and template you can apply to other projects.

Tenderfoot: Recommended Reading

Matthew Eshleman June 28, 20171 comment

Twenty years ago I read Code Complete by Steve McConnell. And then read it again. And again. And again. Of all the books I have read during my career, I believe this was the book that catapulted me from a young electrical engineer to a young and aspiring embedded software engineer. So to all the ‘tenderfoots’ embarking upon an embedded systems and especially embedded software and firmware career, this entry is for you.

First, I would certainly recommend that all engineers read and read...

Embedded Systems - free EdX course by UT-Austin!

Lonnie Honeycutt October 29, 20131 comment

I was very excited to see that there will be an Embedded Systems class available for free at https://www.edx.org/course/utaustin/ut-6-01x/embedded-systems-shape-world/1172

It's free to sign up and take the online class at the EdX website.

More exciting is that the class is based on a TI Launchpad Tiva microcontroller development board.  The Tiva Launchpad features an 80-MHz ARM Cortex M-4 MCU with 256 KB of flash storage, 32 KB of RAM and 43 general purpose I/O pins.  

C++ on microcontrollers 3 – a first shot at an hc595 class with 8 output pins

Wouter van Ooijen November 2, 2011

 previous parts: 1, 2

This blog series is about the use of C++ for modern microcontrollers. My plan is to show the gradual development of a basic I/O library. I will introduce the object-oriented C++ features that are used step by step, to provide a gentle yet practical introduction into C++ for C programmers.  Reader input is very much appreciated, you might even steer me in the direction you find most interesting.

In the first part of...

C to C++: Templates and Generics – Supercharging Type Flexibility

Jacob Beningo March 24, 20242 comments

"C to C++: Templates and Generics – Supercharging Type Flexibility" illuminates the rigidity of C when managing multiple types and the confusion of code replication or macro complexity. In contrast, C++ offers templates, acting as type-agnostic blueprints for classes and functions, which allows for the creation of versatile and reusable code without redundancy. By using templates, developers can define operations like add once and apply them to any data type, simplifying codebases significantly. Generics further this concept, enabling a single code structure to handle diverse data types efficiently—a boon for embedded systems where operations must be performed on varying data, yet code efficiency is critical due to resource limitations. The blog walks through practical applications, showcasing how templates streamline processes and ensure type safety with static_assert, all while weighing the pros and cons of their use in embedded software, advocating for careful practice to harness their full potential.