Electronic Design

Embedded Hardware: Know it all

By Jack Ganssle, et. al.

The “Know It All" series from Newnes, a brand of Elsevier Inc., tends to be a collection of chapters from a range of authors. This is a good approach as longs as the authors are good ones, and this crop definitely comes out on top. Most of the authors have popular books in their topic areas and the chapters tend to be the extraction of the best of that content.

Embedded Hardware: Know it all targets those with limited embedded hardware background including college students, software developers and the real hackers. A little electrical and logic background helps but it starts with the basics and gets into some pretty good depth later on.

The first few chapters start out with basic circuits and then logic. It quickly moves through processor architectures with a nice discussion on instruction sets. The chapters on buses and I/O get into real examples that contrast with each other nicely, providing a good overview of the topic area. The coverage of protocols like I2C and CAN, later in the book, are in depth enough to be useful without taking up too much space that would eliminate other useful topics. For example, DMA coverage addresses advanced architectures like descriptor-based systems.

Right in the middle of the book are chapters on timing and microcontroller design choices. It’s a good spot since the prior chapters provide a nice basis for discussion. It is surprising that the chapters meld so well with such a range of authors. I like the fact that they touch on GNU and open software, but steer clear of lengthy legal discussions.

The chapter on sensors and actuators is especially good and rare in most hardware books not dedicated to this topic. The discussion on FPGAs and CPLDs is short, but these topics could make for an entire book, so trimming is bound to happen.

The design techniques chapter and the PCB design appendix are gems for almost any reader. These are areas often overlooked in books that hit hardware design strictly from a microcontroller perspective.

Overall, the book was a nice reminder of all the topics and techniques needed by an embedded designer especially when dealing with both hardware and software. The target is definitely on the hardware side but it does not over look the software aspects or board design issues.

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