Is the embedded design profession under siege?

Back in the mid-70s when I started my engineering career, embedded systems development was a new and arcane discipline. Microprocessors were scarcely understood and those of us who could make them perform were specialists that were hard to replace.

Now, we've done our jobs building up a body of tools and other resources so well that anyone can make an embedded system work, and embedded systems developers may be in danger of becoming sidelined, if not totally obsolete.

In the early years, microprocessors were a generally unknown technology. Those of us working with them needed an intimate understanding of how they functioned. We worked in assembly language, often compiling by hand, and generally had to develop our own development tools. Most of our management had no clue how these system functioned. Many actively opposed the use of these computing elements as the core of a system design.

But the trend was inevitable, and in short order a whole new industry grew around the use of these devices as well as the need to program and test them in operation. Embedded systems developers formed communities, and specialized educational channels such as Dr. Dobbs Journal and the Embedded Systems Conference arose. Still, the state of the art continued advancing rapidly and those who were practitioners of the art remained specialists who could command respect and could earn great rewards.

But we seem to have done our job too well. The computing element at the heart of our designs became so ubiquitous that its abilities are now taken for granted.

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