Jim Turley


Jim Turley is contributing editor on He wrote the column Significant Bits in Embedded Systems Programming magazine and served as the editorial director of the Embedded Systems Programming/Design magazine,, and the Embedded Systems Conference. He's written several books, including Essential Guide to Semiconductors, Advanced 80386 Programming Techniques, and PCs Made Easy. Jim Turley now runs Silicon Insider, an independent consultancy. For more info on Jim Turley, go to

Jim Turley

's contributions
    • If you were stranded on a desert island and could only choose one, would you stick with (a) your current microprocessor; (b) your current operating system, or (c) your current development tools? Jim Turley knows the answer.

    • Embedded systems are evolving in exciting ways but our design methods are out of date.

    • Jim Turley writes about semiconductors for embedded systems developers. The column was originally published in Embedded Systems Programming magazine.

    • Choosing a processor is a decision that will live with you for years. Which ones should you look at? This paper examines some of the best from 100+ choices, and zeros in on the best examples from many different categories. It also provides guidelines for evaluating processors for embedded systems.

    • My PC is probably a lot like yours. It takes about two and a half minutes to boot, an eternity to most people. Here are ideas for improving boot up delays in your designs.

    • Intel's move to give up on its x86 processor line is the end of an era.

    • What has 250 million transistors and nine processors? It's IBM, Sony, and Toshiba's Cell processor. Here's how the hardware works and what makes it special.

    • Horsepower, aerodynamics, and even talent take a back seat to the arcanse science of calculating tire slip angles.

    • There's nothing quite like a new perspective. The May issue of Embedded Systems Design magazine is full of articles about "thinking different," right-brained reasoning and getting different perspectives on old engineering problems. Even though engineering is usually characterized as methodical, procedural and a bit unoriginal, it's good to think outside the proverbial box from time to time.

    • Gas/electric vehicles like the Prius make us feel good, but they don't make a lot of sense.

    • As cars get loaded with more software, there's a big temptation to upgrade the system in the field.

    • The Essential Guide to Semiconductors is a complete professional's guide to the business and technology of semiconductor design and manufacturing. This chapter provides an overview of the old- and new-style design processes, verifying the design works, using outside IP, getting to tape out and film, and current problems and future trends.

    • Our in-car video shows Mario Andretti hustling a Porsche GT3 Cup car around California's Infineon Raceway.

    • A rocketship ride around Infineon Raceway courtesy of Mario Andretti and Scott Sharp.

    • We've all heard the joke about the PC user who mistakes his CD-ROM drive for a cup holder. Although sometimes our customers seem to be more trouble than they're worth, they aren't as stupid as they seem.

    • Here's the fourth installment of our large-scale survey of embedded systems developers from around the world. This month we look at a variety of custom chips: programmable, customizable, and hard-wired. The use of custom chips is on the rise, but the type of chip varies by industry.

    • "Automotive electronics" would have been an oxymoron just a few decades ago. Now even low-cost cars are loaded with processors, more than most race cars.

    • Our monthly installments of the embedded survey results have been very popular, which is a good thing--until someone spots a mistake. In this case, it was a particularly vexing and embarrassing one.

    • Here is the third installment of our large-scale, worldwide survey of embedded systems developers. This month we look at development teams themselves--how they’re growing, how they're funded, and where they’re located, among other fascinating trends.

    • Technology to the People! The consumer market is as strong as ever. Home electronics, and particularly entertainment electronics, always sell strongly. It's an area where each advancement is obvious and each new product finds a willing audience.

    • "....Every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent founded on compromise and barter," said 18th-century political philosopher Edmund Burke. He could have been describing embedded systems design.

    • This issue marks the second installment of our large-scale survey of embedded systems developers from around the world. In May we examined the ways in which embedded microprocessors are evaluated and selected. This month we do the same for operating systems.

    • Danica Patrick is the hot new driver at the Indy 500 this year. She's the first woman to qualify so close to the front of the grid.

    • Two Formula One drivers battled it out for an exciting race in Italy. Despite all the technology, it's all down to driving skill.

    • What ICs are your peers using these days? What languages and operating systems do they favor? Over the next year, we'll post the results of the Embedded Systems Programming survey online and in the magazine. Here's a little background behind the study.

    • Each year Embedded Systems Programming conducts a large-scale survey of embedded systems developers around the world. This month's installment reveals how engineers, programmers, developers, and managers choose a microprocessor.

    • Race day was a success and the data log shows lots of improvement over last year, but with room for plenty more.

    • The major FPGA makers, Altera and Xilinx, are now both offering "hardened" versions of their normally "soft" FPGA chips. These offer a nice middle ground between the total flexibility (and maximum cost) of an FPGA and the negligible flexibility of a fixed ASIC or other fixed-function chip. These two companies, which normally mirror each other's moves closely, took totally different approaches to their hardened chips. In this feature article, Jim Turley takes a look at these approaches to figure out which one the customers will like the best.

    • Yikes! The merry punster Jim Turley entertains us with some April Fools frivolity

    • With the end of winter storage and the start of spring testing, it's time to see what the car can do.

    • The world's most popular microprocessor chip is not what you think it is. Embedded processors make up 98% of all microprocessors. Though they come in all shapes and sizes and have many purposes, what embedded processors do share is a focus on cost-effectiveness and suitability to the task—whatever the task may be. In this feature article, Jim Turley examines microprocessors and processor-controlled motors.

    • The car is a featherweight, so shifting the location of any mass makes a noticeable difference.

    • "BBC English please!" said a recent immigrant to the United States when confronted with some of our garbled American accents. If only there were such a phrase that applied to embedded systems programming jargon. Jim explains why it's worth your while to speak plain English, not tech-speak.

    • During the life of a project, you'll come to five forks in the road where you'll make major and irreversible decisions that can set you on the path to success or failure.

    • The new year brings some new features to Embedded Systems Programming magazine, including a greater focus on the FPGA and programmable logic. Jim introduces his plans for 2005.

    • Intel's x86 microprocessors can automatically manage tasks just like a simple operating system. There are many tricks and pitfalls, however, but with the right approach the programmer can get great performance at zero cost.

    • The inspiring story of Apollo 13 makes even the most successful of engineers exclaim "we're not worthy." Jim recently encountered his childhood hero Gene Krantz.

    • Now that the rainy season has set in I'm poring over the interesting stuff my race car's onboard data-acquisiton system has collected. It's supposed to help me go faster next year. We'll see.

    • Racing season's over so I've turned my attention to road cars. I'm looking at a Dodge Magnum wagon as a tow car for the race car. It's not bad looking (for a station wagon) and outfitted with the V8, it manages to get out of its own way.

    • It's a good time to be an automotive/electrical engineer. We've all seen the statistics and factoids about how much electronics is going into cars these days, and it's cool. A Mercedes S-class has more than 65 microprocessors; the controversial BMW 7-series is purported to have more than 100. That's a lot of chips.

    • Is debugging a necessary part of all programming or is it just a symptom of an immature industry? Most other professionals don't spend half their time fixing mistakes -- why do we?

    • It's rare that construction outstrips creation. We've always been able to design things we can't build"tall buildings, flying cars, or talking robots that are impossible to construct without some breakthrough in manufacturing. But with embedded chips we can build more than we can design.

    • Hardware standards enable programmers to work with a known quantity instead of a moving target. But freezing any system stifles creativity and slows advancements in technology. Standardizing on hardware is a mixed blessing and the benefits depend on whom you ask.

    • Privilege protection does in hardware what most operating systems and kernels do in software -- it keeps errant and malicious code under control.

    • We engineers often resent managers who interfere in our choice of tools. It may be hard for us to admit that our managers have the best interest of the company in mind.

    • Chips that CPU makers are offering this summer may be tiny but they're full of some amazing features.

    • It can take years for a company to make a good name for itself. What happens when a company with a good name changes it?

    • A few years ago people would have called it "the changing of the guard"; now we say "regime change." Whatever you call it, Embedded Systems Programming is in the capable hands of new Editor in Chief Jim Turley.

    • Athough the x86 architecture is a quarter century old, the introduction of protected mode changes how you program newer members of the family.

    • How do you get from beach sand to microprocessors? Prof. Turley explains the process. In doing so, he reveals a few secrets.

    • Transmeta's Crusoe is a processor of mystery. It economizes power, emulates x86 code, and hides its actual architecture and instruction sets.

    • Goodbye binary arithmetic, instruction sets, and assembly language programming. Hello 4.5-billion transistor, 250GHz processors. O brave new embedded world!

    • Thanks to the magic of microprocessors and embedded systems, our cars are becoming safer, more efficient, and entertaining.

    • If instruction sets didn't matter, processors would be cheaper and designers would have more options. That's why one startup's efforts are so intriguing.

    • Processor selection too often turns into a religious war. Debunking the dominant myths is the first step towards making a rational choice.

    • Do we really need another entry into the processor space? Maybe—if it's a processor like no other.

    • Despite the hype over RISC, CISC processors live on. In fact, they dominate. Sometimes slow and steady really does win the race.

    • Processors make up only a small percentage of semiconductor volume, yet they generate most of the revenue. Jim explains why.

    • The days of custom logic are numbered. The evolution and history of microprocessors point the way to the future.

    • Hardware design's growing abstraction might lead you to think open-source development is just around the corner. Jim says that's not the case.

    • Code compression and code compaction become hot technologies as programmers try to squeeze code size.

    • While I agree with your observations, I'm not convinced about the conclusion. There are a lot of embedded designs that need over-$1 and over-$10 (and over-$100) processors. Being left out of the dirt-cheap market isn't necessarily a death sentence, IMHO. After all, Ferrari and Lamborghini don't make cheap cars and they seem to be doing okay. ;-)

    • Totally agree that Intel (and AMD and some others) had a very on-again, off-again attitude toward embedded CPUs. That was a deal-breaker for many embedded designers in the 90s and later. But I think (hope?) that the company has (a) learned its lesson and (b) has no other choice. With the PC market headed downward, what alternative does Intel have? Make embedded processors or die. Easy decision.

    • This post wasn't about the MMU; every processor has one of those, as you point out. Instead, this was about the built-in hardware protection mechanisms that are unique to the x86 architecture. Any chip's MMU can stop a write to memory that's off-limits, but I haven't seen any that know the difference between stacks and data, or that implement privilege hierarchies, or that can do hardware task switching with no OS support. The x86 architecture has plenty of weird points, too, but it's also got some pretty nice ones.