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Beginner’s guide to learning Embedded Systems
- May 26, 2022
- Posted by: Shubhankar Gola
- Category: News & Updates
A summary of the lots of options for getting started with the Embedded Systems Domain
This is a topic that has attracted me since I was a child; my brother and I enjoy doing things with electronics and have always been curious about how they function.
We used to explore to manufacture everyday equipment, such as a small battery-operated DC fan or a digital clock that was powered by an external battery rather than a button cell.
We didn’t have access to a computer at the time, so we had to rely on kits, primarily hobby kits, available on the market. Time flies and technology advances at a breakneck pace; now you have access to everything you require for your next endeavor.
As I stated in my opening statement, I am fascinated by how things function, and this brings us to the use case of embedded systems.
Although this is a wide topic and not everything can be addressed in a single article, I will do my best to cover the topics that I believe will be most useful to you as you begin your embedded systems adventure.
I won’t go into great detail in this article, but I will try to show you how to get started with embedded systems.
What is an Embedded System, and How Does It Work?
Embedded systems are embedded computing systems that are integrated into everyday objects.
These are computers that aren’t general-purpose computers like desktops and laptops but are targeted to a specific use case.
Toys, refrigerators, microwave ovens, laundry machines, robots, drones, and anything else you see every day.
Where do you begin in the embedded domain?
Study a programming language, particularly C.
As I previously stated, these are little computer systems, which means they process some code to complete the task for which they were created.
As a result, the first thing you’ll need to learn is a programming language that’s appropriate for the embedded domain. To get started in this field, I recommend that you learn C first.
Most of the embedded systems I’ve seen used C or C++ for programming, and the reason for this is simple:
most of the embedded systems we’ll be working with have very little memory. You won’t be able to run your Python interpreter or JVM, which allows you to execute your Python or Java code or any other language you’ve been working with / learning so far.
Any microcontroller (CPU) can be programmed with a C or C++ compiler. Before you start coding for any embedded system board, you should learn some type of C language.
What if you’re not interested in learning C?
If you don’t want to learn C, which I think is a horrible idea, you’ll have to choose a hardware platform that suits your needs. This will depend on the type of project you’re working on, which may be a drone or a toy for your younger sister or brother.
There are many kits on the market for your specific use case, and each platform has its own domain boundaries. They may act differently and have varying power and memory requirements.
You’ll have to make an informed decision based on your use case and desired criteria such as battery life, memory, and other factors relevant to the project you’re working on.
The benefit of hardware platforms is that they come with software alternatives that make it simple to get started, and they also provide you with a strong community around their Ecosystem that can assist you if you run into any issues.
How to Select the Right Hardware Platform
There are different platforms available on the market, and it all depends on your needs. Whether you’re looking for a platform that’s simple to get started with and gets your system up and running quickly or a platform that allows you to delve deeper into the system’s internals and study every last detail, we’ve got you covered.
You can start with simple ones and work your way up to more complex ones; the option is yours. Arduino is a good place to start if you want something simple.
Platforms based on Linux
Raspberry Pi is at the top of this list if you’re seeking for a platform that feels like your desktop or PC.
It runs Linux and allows you to design systems in whatever language you want. It contains GPIO pins that may be programmed using any Linux-based programming language.
This platform has a strong community behind it, with many people using it to design embedded devices and plenty of code to get started with.
The issue with this platform is the same as with Arduino: it has a lot of stuff between your code and the hardware, and you won’t know how your code interacts with it.
I’ve discovered that the Raspberry Pi can be used as a gateway between your gadgets and the internet and databases.
You’ll use Raspberry Pi to bridge the gap between your devices and distant databases, allowing data from those devices to be sent over the internet to remote database servers.
To begin, there are multiple materials available on this platform. This platform is so simple to use that young child can begin working on embedded devices.
I frequently use this platform to prototype my projects, and it is a significant time-saver in that regard.
Many users have used this platform in applications, and it has performed admirably. Arduino comes with its own IDE and a large number of examples for common use cases, making it an excellent platform for novices.
The code written in the Arduino IDE is C++; however, we do not always employ all C++ constructs, so it may appear to be C.
If you want to know the nuts and bolts of the controller and what’s going on in the processor, Arduino isn’t the best choice because it abstracts many things for us to get started with.
If this is the case, you must select a microcontroller and begin writing code in the C programming language. I’m not going to advocate a specific microcontroller; you can use whatever you choose based on availability.
For each micro controller, a development kit is available on the market that includes the majority of the components you’ll need to get started.
Many different piggyback modules, either from the manufacturer or from third parties, are also available to provide the additional functions for that development kit.
What matters now is to identify a microcontroller, purchase a development kit if desired (you can also construct your own circuit), and begin writing code.
You will learn how to handle interrupts, interface external devices, read hardware registers, configure hardware timers and clocks, and much more.
To make your source code execute on the target controller, you’ll need to figure out which compiler you’ll require, such as GCC or other binary toolchains.
To see the architecture and pin combinations of the processor and other peripherals, consult various user guides and datasheets.
The learning curve may appear steep at first, but you will quickly grasp how things function and get the benefits.
I’ve done my best to keep this essay basic, and I hope that it will help you better understand embedded systems.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.