|When Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce first introduced
the microchip in the early 1960s, they drastically changed the course
of the computer industry by transforming room-sized machines into an
array of mainframes, mini, and personal computers. Their chip was used
to make computers. But it touched many other industries as well: education,
transportation, manufacturing, and entertainment. In fact, the impact
of the microprocessor on the life of the average person has been likened
to the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution.
Today, microprocessors are literally everywhere. And the number of chips
being manufactured to meet an ever-growing consumer demand is enormous.
More than a quarter of a billion microprocessors are built and sold every
But they are not manufactured for traditional computer applications.
Instead, these chips are embedded in products such as washing machines,
dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, televisions, stereos, automatic garage
door openers, microwaves, and cell phones. In fact, it’s difficult
to name an electronic or electro-mechanical device in a home today that
does not feature one or more embedded microprocessors.
There are approximately 50 microprocessors in an average middle-class
American household today. Add a personal computer and that number jumps
to 60. Add a car, depending on the model, and the number of microprocessors
in a typical household doubles. In fact, on
any given day, an individual might interact with as many as 70 microprocessors
While microprocessors are found in household products, they are also present
in children’s games, toys, and a variety of other devices. The recently
introduced Segway, a self-balancing people mover, contains 10 microprocessors.
The Mercedes C-Class sedan features 153 microprocessors and offers an optional
system, stock updates, and emergency assistance.
The most exciting thing about microprocessors is that there is no such thing
as a “typical” embedded system. But they all have one thing in common:
Embedded processors are being used by a variety of industries and researchers
in a number of different ways to help improve the way people live.