Question?

Hello,
Is an embedded system just a micro controller with a specific task? Or is it a micro controller running some sort of OS?
Just wanting to learn a little more about this.
Thanks, Joe McKibben
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Joe McKibben wrote:

An "embedded controller" is simply a microcontroller used inside of a non-computing device.
Examples include the processors that control a car's fuel/air mixture, programmable light timers and thermostats, cell phones, digital cameras, traffic lights, microwave ovens, VCRs, printers, multifunction TV remotes, vending machines, bread makers, and rice cookers.
Many (most?) embedded systems don't really run an operating system; they just have a single program that starts when the power is connected. Those that do generally use a specialized real-time OS.
Hope that helps, Daniel
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Yeah that helps. I have just seen the term used every once in a while and wondered what exactly it referred to.
Joe McKibben
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The answer here will be : "it depends on the application". Usually an embedded controller refers to a complete system being mechatronical, meaning that includes a mechanical device, power source, electronic and control. All this to perform tasks which have a physical impact. Hence, you controller receives inputs from sensors and has outputs that operates motors or all sorts of actuators. Example: a washing machine or your favorite vending machine where you get your espresso from.
Now, there is issue of scale. For small applications such as small alarm systems and the like, the engineers do program everything simply with interrupts, that's all no need for OS there.
When the system is a bit larger, then they do provide their proprietary OS if the system will have to deal with a variety of tasks such as a printer that contains a scanner.
In more complex systems such as ATMs, then they apply small versions of OS such as QNX, OS2 and the like. These machines have to deal with a certain number of activities.
In your car, you see more and more of those devices fitted with these mechatronic systems where the control is made with the embedded controller dedicated or not. Even, the active suspensions in Citroen's medium range cars have them. Some will include a real-time OS such as Windows CE
Finally, like in those mobile robots such as the Pioneer ones, your robot controller will include a proprietary real-time OS.
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