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Copyright Ó 2001 Microcontroller.com. All Rights Reserved.
March 2001
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Development tools issues aside, most DSPs have built-in features that microcontroller
engineers have wanted for years:
ü
Zero-overhead loops
ü
Automatic buffer management
ü
Bit reversing hardware
ü
Barrel-shifters
ü
Hardware multiply
From a positioning standpoint, that is, looking from the perspective of a microcontroller
engineer, the best way to view a DSP is as an extension of microcontroller migration;
that is, move to a DSP from a microcontroller because more processing power is
needed and the hardware features make for a more efficient system implementation.
The reason as to why such efforts are made to convince microcontroller engineers to
program DSPs is simple: there are overwhelmingly more microcontroller engineers than
DSP engineers.
A design engineer selecting a microcontroller for a real-time control application can
select a micro that fits the system needs and also has a high-quality development
environment available. Assemblers, compilers, debuggers, in-circuit emulators - a
microcontroller can be found at every price/performance point with world-class
development tools. As stated before, and this cannot be over emphasized, To the
software engineer, the microcontroller or DSP is not just a square piece of plastic
- it exists in engineering reality in the user interface of the computer screen and
keyboard that hosts the hardware and software development tools. This is crucial
in reaching a software engineer's heart. The history of processors is filled with cores
that had outstanding technical merits but were obsoleted because of poor quality
development tools and/or a lack of planning in putting together a suite of tools, which
prevented the device from ever gaining or maintaining any serious market acceptance.
MICROCONTROLLER SIGNAL PROCESSORS (MSPs)
Up until now the discussion has centered on the deeply embedded applications that use
8- and 16-bit processors. Even taking into account the new growing markets, the a wide
variety of applications are available for dual-functionality systems, as well as the vast
majority of the embedded marketplace, in terms of dollars and volume.
Recently, a new breed of high-powered processor has been developed. Based on 32-bit
microcontroller programming models, these new processors have all the control
features and the rich peripheral set of a microcontroller with many of the hard signal
processing architectural enhancements of a DSP. This cross-breed of the two
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