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Embedded Systems are the computer system which acts as dedicated part of the whole system of electrical or mechanical systems. Embedded systems are the systems which are assembled using the micro-controllers and microprocessors which have a definite function which is required to drive a new system or update a system which includes real-timecomputing constraints. A processor used in the embedded system is the Heart of the whole system as it governs the complete system designed. Lets have a look over the different questions asked on Embedded systems with answers-

Embedded Systems based Questions and Answers

Q1. What is an embedded system?
Ans. An embedded system is a special purpose computer system which is completely encapsulated by device it control. It is a programmed hardware device in which the hardware chip is programmed with specific function. It is a combination of hardware and software.

Q2. What are the characteristics of embedded system? 
Ans. The Characteristics of the embedded systems are as follows-
1. Sophisticated functionality
2. Real time behavior
3. Low manufacturing cost
4. Low power consumption
5. User friendly
6. Small size

Q3. What are the types of embedded system?  
Ans. They are of 4 types
1. General computing
2. Control System
3. Digital Signal Processing
4. Communication and network

Q4. What is digital signal controller ?
Ans. DSC is 16 bit RISC machine that combines control advantages of micro-controller and digital signal processing to produce tightly coupled single chip-single instruction stream solution for embedded system design.

Q5. What are the components of embedded system?
Ans. Microcontroller, microprocessor, DSC, DSP, busses, system clock, Read only Memory(ROM), RAM, Real time clock these are the components of embedded system.

Q6. Why we use embedded systems?
Ans. Embedded systems avoid lots of electronic components and they have rich built in functionality. They reduces the cost and maintenance cost and the probability of failure of embedded system is less so embedded system are in very much use now a days.

Q7. What are the languages used in embedded system?
Ans. Assembly language and C are  basically used for embedded system. Java and ADA are also preferred.

Q8. How does combination of functions reduce memory requirement in embedded system?
Ans. By using functions the amount of code that has to be dealt with is reduced thus redundancy is eliminated for everything common in function.

Q9. What is the significance of watchdog timer in ES?
Ans. It is a timing device which is set to predefined time interval and some task is to be performed at that time. It is used to reset original state when an inappropriate event take place.It is usually operated by counter device.

10. What is the difference between mutexes and semaphores?
Ans. Semaphores are the synchronization tool to overcome critical section problem.
Mutex is also a tool that is used to provide deadlock free mutual exclusion. It protects access to every critical data item, if the data is locked and is in use,it either waits for the thread to finish or awakened to release the lock from its inactive state.

Q11.What is the need for an infinite loop in Embedded systems?
Infinite Loops are those program constructs where in there is no break statement so as to get out of the loop, it just keeps looping over the statements within the block defined.
While(Boolean True) OR for(;;);
Embedded systems need infinite loops for repeatedly processing/monitoring the state of the program. One example could be the case of a program state continuously being checked for any exceptional errors that might just occur during run time such as memory outage or divide by zero etc.,

For e.g. Customer care Telephone systems where in a pre-recorded audio file is played in case the dialer is put on hold..

Also circuits being responsible for indicating that a particular component is active/alive during its operation by means of LED's.

Q12.How does combination of functions reduce memory requirements in embedded systems?
The amount of code that has to be dealt with is reduced thus easing the overhead and redundancy is eliminated in case if there is anything common among the functions.

Memory allocation is another aspect that is optimized and it also makes sense to group a set of functions related in some way as one single unit rather than having them to be dispersed in the whole program.

In case of interactive systems display of menu list and reading in the choices of user's could be encapsulated as a single unit.

Q.13A vast majority of High Performance Embedded systems today use RISC architecture why?
According to the instruction sets used, computers are normally classified into RISC and CISC.RISC stands for 'Reduced Instruction Set Computing' .The design philosophy of RISC architecture is such that only one instruction is performed on each machine cycle thus taking very less time and speeding up when compared to their CISC counterparts.

Here the use of registers is optimised as most of the memory access operations are limited to store and load operations.

Fewer and simple addressing modes, and simple instruction formats leads to greater efficiency, optimisation of compilers, re-organisation of code for better throughput in terms of space and time complexities. All these features make it the choice of architecture in majority of the Embedded systems.

CISC again have their own advantages and they are preferred whenever the performance and compiler simplification are the issues to be taken care of.

Q14.Why do we need virtual device drivers when we have physical device drivers?
Device drivers are basically a set of modules/routines so as to handle a device for which a direct way of communication is not possible through the user's application program and these can be thought of as an interface thus keeping the system small providing for minimalistic of additions of code, if any.
Physical device drivers can’t perform all the logical operations needed in a system in cases like IPC, Signals and so on...
The main reason for having virtual device drivers is to mimic the behaviour of certain hardware devices without it actually being present and these could be attributed to the high cost of the devices or the unavailability of such devices.
These basically create an illusion for the users as if they are using the actual hardware and enable them to carryout their simulation results.
Examples could be the use of virtual drivers in case of Network simulators,also the support of virtual device drivers in case a user runs an additional OS in a virtual box kind of a software.

Q15.What is the need for DMAC in ES?
Direct memory access is mainly used to overcome the disadvantages of interrupt and progam controlled I/O.
DMA modules usually take the control over from the processor and perform the memory operations and this is mainly because to counteract the mismatch in the processing speeds of I/O units and the procesor.This is comparatively faster.
It is an important part of any embedded systems,and the reason for their use is that they can be used for bursty data transfers instead of single byte approaches.
It has to wait for the systems resources such as the system bus in case it is already in control of it.

Q16.What is Endianness of a system and how do different systems communicate with each other?
Endianness basically refers to the ordering of the bytes within words or larger bytes of data treated as a single entity.
When we consider a several bytes of data say for instance 4 bytes of data,XYZQ the lower byte if stored in a Higher address and others in successively decreasing addresses ,then it refers to the Big Endian and the vice versa of this refers to Little Endian architecture.
Intel 80x86 usually follows Little Endian and others like IBM systems follow Big Endian formats.
If the data is being transmitted care has to be taken so as to know as to which byte,whether the higher or the lower byte is being transmitted.
Hence a common format prior to communication has to be agreed upon to avoid wrong interpretation/calculations.
Usually layer modules are written so as to automate these conversion in Operating systems.

Q.17How are macros different from inline functions?
Macros are normally used whenever a set of instructions/tasks have to be repeatedly performed. They are small programs to carryout some predefined actions.
We normally use the #define directive in case we need to define the values of some constants so in case a change is needed only the value can be changed and is reflected throughout.
#define mul(a,b) (a*b)
The major disadvantage of macros is that they are not really functions and the usual error checking and stepping through of the code does not occur.
Inline functions are expanded whenever it is invoked rather than the control going to the place where the function is defined and avoids all the activities such as saving the return address when a jump is performed. Saves time in case of short codes.
inline float add(float a,float b)
return a+b;
Inline is just a request to the compiler and it is upto to the compiler whether to substitute the code at the place of invocation or perform a jump based on its performance algorithms.

Q18.What could be the reasons for a System to have gone blank and how would you Debug it?
Possible reasons could be,
- PC being overheated.
- Dust having being accumulated all around.
- CPU fans not working properly .
- Faulty power connections.
- Faulty circuit board from where the power is being drawn.
- Support Drivers not having being installed.

Debugging steps which can be taken are:

- Cleaning the system thoroughly and maintaining it in a dust-free environment.
Environment that is cool enough and facilitates for easy passage of air should be ideal enough.

- By locating the appropriate support drivers for the system in consideration and having them installed.

Q19.Explain interrupt latency and how can we decrease it?
Interrupt latency basically refers to the time span an interrupt is generated and it being serviced by an appropriate routine defined.,usually the interrupt handler.
External signals,some condition in the program or by the occurrence of some event,these could be the reasons for generation of an interrupt.
Interrupts can also be masked so as to ignore them even if an event occurs for which a routine has to be executed.
Following steps could be followed to reduce the latency
- isrs being simple and short.
- Interrupts being serviced immediately
- Avoiding those instructions that increase the latency period.
- Also by prioritizing interrupts over threads.
- Avoiding use of inappropriate APIs.

Q20.How to create a child process in linux?
Prototype of the function used to create a child process is pid_t fork(void);
Fork is the system call that is used to create a child process. It takes no arguments and returns a value of type pid_t.
If the function succeeds it returns the pid of the child process created to its parent and child receives a zero value indicating its successful creation.
On failure, a -1 will be returned in the parent's context, no child process will be created, and errno will be set
The child process normally performs all its operations in its parents context but each process independently of one another and also inherits some of the important attributes from it such as UID, current directory, root directory and so on.

Q21.Significance of watchdog timer in Embedded Systems
Watchdog timer is basically a timing device that is set for predefined time interval and some event should occur during that time interval else the device generates a time out signal.
One application where it is most widely used is when the mobile phone hangs and no activity takes place,in those cases watchdog timer performs a restart of the system and comes to the rescue of the users.
It is used to reset to the original state whenever some inappropriate events take place such as too many commands being given at the same time or other activities that result in malfunctioning of the GUI.It is usually operated by counter devices.

Q22.If you buy some RTOS, what are the features you look for in ?
-Deterministic operating system having guaranteed worst-case interrupt latency and context-switch times.
-Documentation providing for the minimum, average, and maximum number of clock cycles required by each system call
-Interrupt response times should be very minute.
-Context switch time should be very low.
-Compatibility with several plugin devices.
- Overall it should be very reliable.

Q23.Why is java mostly used in embedded systems?
Java was mainly designed and conceputalised for code that can work on different platforms without any hassles and also for being secure enough so as to not harm or corrupt other modules of code.
Features like exception handling,simple syntax and Automatic Garbage collection all work in its favour as the language for use in ES's.
Also that it is widely used in the form of Java applets makes it very popular confining it to the limits of JVM.It is Dynamic in nature.
Its use is also being exploited in enterprise systems in the form of J2EE ,J2SE
J2ME in case of mobile applications.

Q24.Differentiate between mutexes vs semaphores
-Semaphores is a synchronisation tool to overcome the critical section problem.
- A semaphore S is basically an integer variable that apart from initialisation is accesses only through atomic operations such as wait() and signal().
- Semaphore object basically acts as a counter to monitor the number of threads accessing a resource.
- Mutex is also a tool that is used to provide deadlock free mutual exclusion.It protects access to every critical data item.if the data is locked and is in use,it either waits for the thread to finish or awakened to release the lock from its inactive state.

Q25.What are the commonly found errors in Embedded Systems?
- Damage of memory devices due to transient current and static discharges.
- Malfunctioning of address lines due to a short in the circuit
- Malfunctioning of Data lines.
- Some memory locations being inaccessible in storage due to garbage or errors.
- Improper insertion of Memory devices into the memory slots
- Faulty control signals.

Q26.What is the need for having multibyte data input and output buffers in case of device ports?
It’s normally the case that some devices transfer the output either in a bursty or a sequential manner and also during input entry. If we take the example of keyboards, all the data entered is stored in a buffer and given at a time or one character at a time.
In case of networking there may be several requests to access the same resource and all these are queued in a buffer and serviced in the order they are received
Hence to avoid the input/output units from getting overloaded with requests, we use multibyte buffers.

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About Sridhar Mahendrakar

Its my passion to explore myself with new ideas and i love to write; a compulsion; something that gives me an avenue to express myself. I write when I am happy; when I am sad or when an issue touches my heart.


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Graduate Engineer @ Indian Space Research Organization