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20 years ago, I did embedded computing with systems that would scale to about 360 processors (PowerPC "G4" MPC7410 @ 500 MHz) and about 70 gigabytes of RAM.

Yes, it really was embedded. It fit in 9U (15.75 inches) and was rugged enough to fly in a military aircraft. The OS would let users turn off interrupts in order to squeeze out every bit of performance.

We could also run the OS on the SHARC DSP, which is a word-addressed Harvard-architecture chip without an MMU. Running on that would allow 3x the CPU density. One system got up over 1000 cores.

IO would typically come in via DMA, over a 32-bit link running at 40 MHz. There could be many of these.

The end result was generally something like a radar. The end-user sees a radar, buys a radar, and uses a radar. They don't see a computer. The computer is just a component embedded in the radar.

That's an interesting story but you have to admit high bandwidth real time signal processing is a pretty specialist embedded workload. I guess these days there'd be FPGAs and/or existing IC packages for the job.

There were several companies competing in this space. The main three were CSPI, Mercury Computing (now Mercury Systems), and SKY Computing. Matrox briefly tried to join the party.

Even back then, FPGAs and custom ASICs would be part of the compute fabric. I left that out. For example, there was an FFT accelerator chip. These days the companies add in a mix of FPGAs and GPUs, but the CPUs are still there. It's all the same stuff today, but faster.

To the end user, it was never a computer. It was a radar, a video processor, an MRI scanner, a sonar, an ultrasound, a chip wafer inspection device, a laser with real-time mirror warping, or some other tool.

You have a good point that people who set out to implement high end military/medical/high end industrial metrology hardware greenfield projects today may see value in using Rust and won't have a problem with more expensive hardware. However, I do think that's a vanishingly small percentage of embedded development.

I agree. Given low unit prices vs military, the volume of current embedded market suggests a massive number of 8/16/32-bit MCU's are moving:


They probably should be considered the norm if it's embedded without unusually-high performance requirements.

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