Microprocessor Embedded Systems

- when developing embedded system hardware there is a choice of using a microprocessor or a microcontroller - when using a microprocessor what are the best approaches.

When developing an embedded system, one of the options is to base the computational hardware around a microprocessor, MPU rather than a microcontroller, MCU.

Both approaches have their attractions, but generally they will be found in different applications.

Microprocessor embedded systems will tend to be found in larger applications. Microprocessor embedded systems tend to be more suitable for higher levels of processing, where performance is key and space, power consumption and chip count are less important.

Microprocessor basics

Microprocessors, MPUs are ideal for use in embedded systems, but their structure makes them particularly applicable to certain types of embedded systems.

The basic MPU contains the central processing unit and possibly a few additional items but the memory and also the Input Output interface is external. Typically the program is stored in non-volatile memory, such as NAND or serial Flash, and at start-up is loaded into an external DRAM and then commences execution.

This approach enables the microprocessor system to be scaled to meet its requirements more exactly.

Block diagram showing a basic embedded processor unit comprising the central processing unit, RAM, ROM and IO.
Basic embedded microprocessor system block diagram

It can be seen from this diagram that the microprocessor is essentially the CPU, with the external memory an IO connected via the data bus.

By Ian Poole


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