Embedded systems are employed in automobiles, planes, trains, space vehicles, machine tools, cameras, consumer electronics, office appliances, network appliances, video games, cellphones, PDAs, GPS navigation as well as robots and toys. Low-cost consumer products can use microcontroller chips that cost less than a dollar. See microprocessor and microcontroller.
All Kinds of Operating Systems
There are embedded versions of Linux, Windows and Mac, as well as other commercial and proprietary operating systems specialized for embedded systems. Embedded systems typically have limited storage, and an embedded OS is often designed to work in much less memory than desktop operating systems. They also typically work in real time. Small embedded systems may run an application that contains its own input/output routines and not require a separate operating system.
Programs Are in Firmware
In embedded systems, the software typically resides in firmware, such as a flash memory or read-only memory (ROM) chip, in contrast to a general-purpose computer that loads its programs into random access memory (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 embedded market, smart car, Windows CE, Windows XP Embedded, Embedded Linux and embedded language.