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May 20, 2005

"Designing Embedded Hardware, Second Edition": Creating Embedded Systems--From Fundamentals to Finished Devices

Sebastopol, CA--You can tell by the gleam in a programmer's eye that there's a certain beauty in well-written software. There's beauty in well-designed hardware, as well. "With embedded computers, you get to understand the machine at all levels, at once aware of currents flowing though circuit traces and software executing complex algorithms," says John Catsoulis, author of Designing Embedded Hardware, Second Edition (O'Reilly, US $44.95). According to Catsoulis, it's neither possible to write embedded software without understanding the hardware, nor to design hardware without understanding software. "You become involved with the machine to a degree beyond that which is possible with desktop computers. Best of all, it's a lot of fun."

There's a growing interest in designing and building embedded hardware among programmers, hobbyists, and engineers of all types, which is understandable considering the profusion of these systems surrounding us. A typical house easily has thirty or more of these systems hidden inside televisions, VCRs, DVD players, alarm clocks, remote controls, cell phones, toys, and a host of other devices. Embedded systems are one of the most rapidly growing segments of the computer industry. Plus, as Catsoulis says, making them is fun.

"The embedded computer industry is large and constantly growing, yet most people involved in the industry are writing their software to run on third-party hardware. This book shows them how to create their own hardware--to truly turn their design into their own creation," Catsoulis explains. Once readers have finished the book, they should be able to design their own computers from scratch and actually build them. "They could use the skills they gain to create anything from a garden-watering system controller to an MP3 player, or even a desktop computer. The basic skills are the same."

This new edition of Designing Embedded Hardware includes information on the latest generation of processors and microcontrollers, including the new MAXQ processor. It spells out the basics of embedded design for beginners while providing advanced material for more experienced system designers. The book steers a course between manuals dedicated to writing code for particular microprocessors and those that stress the philosophy of embedded-system design without providing practical information. Readers will learn about:

  • Theory and practice of embedded systems
  • Understanding schematics and datasheets
  • Powering an embedded system
  • Producing and debugging an embedded system
  • Processors such as the PIC, Atmel AVR, and Motorola 68000 series
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP) architectures
  • Protocols (SPI and 12C) used to add peripherals
  • RS-232C, RS-422, infrared communication, and USB
  • CAN and Ethernet networking
  • Pulse Width Monitoring and motor control
  • Catsoulis notes that in the first edition of the book he deliberately left out coverage of software for a variety of reasons. The second edition includes some software: "I won't even attempt to cover the instructions of each processor in this book. What I will do is show some simple assembly language techniques. While the instructions may be wildly different between architectures, the basic concepts are the same." Also new to the book is a chapter on the Forth programming language--which, though relatively old, Catsoulis explains, "is a useful tool for embedded system development to which many engineers have yet to be exposed."

    Software professionals who want to design their own hardware will find a wealth of information in Designing Embedded Hardware, Second Edition to help them penetrate the mysteries of building their own specialized devices and start them well on their way.

    Praise for the previous edition:

    "Designing Embedded Hardware offers a vast amount of technical knowledge on how the machines we program work and why they are designed this way...an excellent primer for seasoned software engineers who want to learn more about computers, processor architecture, and peripherals. I hardly need to say at this point that I highly recommend it for hardware design rookies."
    --Danny Kalev, IBM DeveloperWorks

    "In a much more efficient, practical, and accessible way than the typical textbooks, this book begins by outlining the basic principles of electronics and computer architecture. By page 77, you're ready to start applying those principles...For too long, hardware design has been a black art. Or maybe just the dearth of good books has made it seem so. I hope John Catsoulis' new book will be as successful in the market as it's been in showing me how to design hardware. I can't wait to put my new knowledge into practice."
    --Michael Barr, "Embedded Systems Programming"

    Additional Resources:

    Designing Embedded Hardware, Second Edition
    John Catsoulis
    ISBN: 0-596-00755-8, 377 pages, $44.95 US, $62.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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