As the end of another year approaches, it is a good time to try to get a sense of perspective. In the high tech world, the pace of progress is so fast that we can easily forget quite how far we have come and lose the clear view of priorities. For embedded software developers, the big change over the years has been scale: there is so much more code in most systems compared with just a few years ago. When I started programming embedded systems, we had just a few K of memory to work with. Such a constraint would be rare nowadays. But it is important to remember that resources of embedded systems are always limited to some degree and memory and CPU power should still be regarded as precious commodities. This is quite unlike the attitude of desktop programmers, who tend to behave as if a PC has infinite resources.
From time to time I have the opportunity to talk about the state of the art in embedded software, as I did at a conference a few weeks ago. I commonly quote Jim Turley, who wrote in Embedded Systems Programming magazine a few years ago: “A musical greeting card has more computing power than NASA’s lunar lander did in 1969.” I do think that this puts things in perspective.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend Season’s Greetings to readers of my Embedded Software posts. Thanks for all the comments and feedback – keep it coming. I also welcome any suggestions for topics that might be of interest. My next posting will be early in 2011, after the holiday.