What Is an Embedded Computer?

An embedded computer is a computer that is integrated into other devices and is dedicated to the functions of that device. Also referred to as microcontrollers, embedded computers have been used in modern TV sets, motor vehicles, telephones, digital cameras, washing machines, microwaves and dishwashers. The embedded computer is devoted to performing specific tasks and is used in communication, entertainment, science and technology.

An embedded computer can be found in almost all modern automotive, industrial, cooking and consumer, commercial, military and medical inventions. Unlike a general purpose computer, such as a PC, an embedded computer has specific instructions and requirements. Engineers optimize it to reduce the cost and time of doing tasks.

More devices that employ embedded computers are PDAs, printers, DVD players, VCRs, ATMs, thermostats, calculators, video game consoles, digital watches and MP3 players. Embedded computers are present in large installations of machinery, such as factory controllers, traffic lights, hybrid vehicles and aircraft.

Just like ordinary computers, embedded computers have the essential components – central processing unit, random-access memory, read-only memory, input devices, output devices and a clock. However, unlike computers for general purposes, a dedicated embedded computer has fewer hardware demands such as addition of memory and storage space. Due to increased competition, many computer companies are increasingly venturing into consumer electronics.