Embedded Systems

Open Firmware was originally designed for "workstation-class" machines (in particular, it was developed at Sun Microsystems, and is in the ROMs of all current Sun machines). Open Firmware is probably excessive for 16-bit machines, whose resource constraints make it both too big and unnecessary (such machines are often not very expandable). However, many embedded systems use powerful 32-bit processors, often built around industry standard buses and running off-the-shelf real-time operating systems. Such systems share many characteristics with general purpose workstations, and Open Firmware fits those environments quite well.

Embedded systems often require the integration of various hardware devices from different companies, as well as custom hardware. Open Firmware's powerful hardware debugging capabilities, based on the interactive Forth programming language, greatly assist in the task of integrating the various hardware devices. Dealing with a new device usually requires a fair amount of "exploration" (to find out how the device really behaves, as opposed to what the manual says), and the Forth interactive environment is ideal for such tasks.

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Last Modified: February 9, 1996