2008 to 2028: Twenty more years of achievement in embedded systems

November 2028 is the 40th anniversary of ESD.

Twenty years ago, this magazine and the Embedded Systems Conference celebrated a birthday. It was 2008, and we were 20 years old. We took the opportunity to reminisce about the birth of the embedded system and the milestones that marked the pioneer days of the industry. Now it's 2028, our 40th year as a publication, and we're offering up another time capsule: a look back through the accomplishments of the last 20 years, from 2008 to 2028. We've asked some of the elders of the embedded systems community to talk about those years. Their essays are included here for you to enjoy; further essays can be found online. You may also share your reminiscences online on Embedded.com.

But first, let's establish the baseline. Picture yourself back in 2008, when the industry was in its teenage years.

The embedded system had come a long way by then. In 2008, we looked back at those first systems installed as guidance computers in missiles and the lunar module in the 1960s and '70s and were amazed at what was accomplished with so little. The systems were mostly one-of-a-kind, cost millions of taxpayers' dollars, and used almost all the available integrated circuits on the market. (Those systems were the IC market at first.)

Backward and forward, 2008-2028
Looking back from 2028–these appeared in print in the following order:

Looking forward from 2008 to 2028 (online only):

By 2008, we congratulated ourselves on how quickly the industry progressed from systems that only the government could afford to systems appearing in every quotidian device, industry process, and specialized machine. In the 37 intervening years after the first microprocessor appeared in 1971, we'd stuck an embedded system in almost everything we could think of.

Future fun

Here are some entertaining references for the time traveler:

Our next steps were to connect all those systems to the Internet and improve their reliability while making the design process cheaper, easier, and faster. We knew we had a long way to go. Not only was there a global environmental, economic, and resource crisis to address, but we had a coding crisis. The number of lines of code needed to create our complex systems was growing exponentially and the programmers still often crafted their software by hand. We had plenty of tools to aid us but were slow to adopt them. You'd think Joe the engineer had plenty of job security.

Life wasn't all glorious back then. In 2008, the energy crisis was in full swing with high oil prices and worries about climate change. Not only was the weather going crazy, but the economy had major issues. Engineers had angst about wages and job security. Then that short-lived mini depression struck at the end of 2008. We were facing some dark days, but thanks to global cooperation and our adaptability as humans, we pulled through for a better life and a better planet. Embedded systems played a big role. See for yourself…

In 2008, Susan Rambo was the managing editor of Embedded Systems Design but lost her job to an ambitious robot intern in 2010.

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