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Six steps to learn Embedded Systems – a Beginners Guide

Six steps to learn Embedded Systems – a Beginners Guide


Learning Embedded systems can be quite tricky – especially in knowing how and where to start. To help you find the whole thing less daunting, here are some tips for you to get started. These are not, of course, the only way to go about learning embedded systems programming. However, if you are new to the concept, these steps might make it easier to get started and help you focus on the things that actually matter. Indeed, these six steps are designed to make learning embedded systems more effective and faster. So, let’s look at the steps.

Step 1: Learn a programming language:

The first thing is to learn a programming language or to choose the one you want to use for programming embedded systems. You can use both low-level and high-level programming languages for embedded systems. Each language comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. If you already know a language inside out, it’s probably best to stick with it.

As a rule, the best programming language to know would be C and C++. Majority of embedded tool chains use C as the primary language and therefore, you may want to consider learning it. The good news is that you can do it online for free, as well as find great paid materials to aid your learning.

Step 2: Pick up basic electronics:

Once you’ve mastered a programming language, you need to turn your attention to basic electronics. This doesn’t mean going to a proper course – although you can do that too if you want –just reminding yourself of the basic concepts in the field. Things you need to know and understand include things like voltage, current, power and ohms law.

Finding online tutorials won’t be difficult. You can also find online simulators that help you experiment with different settings and concepts. Play around, as it will help you in the later steps.

Step 3: List out necessary equipments:

It’s almost time to get your hands dirty and to finally start doing something based out of Embedded. Before that, you do need to sort out your gears. You will need physical equipment since embedded systems programming is all about the physical world.

What are the things you need? You will need to purchase at least the following items to get started:

  • A microcontroller / Development board
  • Soldering iron
  • Digital multi-meter
  • Logic analyzer
  • Resistors/capacitors
  • Wires

Finding these items online won’t be difficult or costly. You can find the items as individual components or in some instances, shop for them as a starting kit for embedded systems programming. The key is to just compare reviews of the different tools and shop around for prices.


Step 4: Choose the Microcontroller/ Development board and IDE:

There are plenty of different options to go with when it comes to Microcontroller or Development boards. The one you choose should be something suited for your skill level and budget. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when selecting these:

  • Try avoiding prototyping platforms such as Arduino/Node Mcu and so. Although these are best in developing embedded prototype they suck at providing the learning experience to the user because of it’s user friendly IDE and powerful community.
  • Bare development boards such as STM discovery kits, ARM / AVR development boards. These are few examples however in reality you will have plenty of platforms to choose from.

Next you need to choose the which IDE will be a fit for the Microcontroller or Development board you have chosen. This is very important because every IDE has it’s own unique characteristics and you need to do a bit of research to see if it fits your purpose. Some popular IDE’s are AVR studio, CCS compiler, Keil etc.

Step 5:Find the components:

Now, you are almost ready to start your project. You simply need to buy the components you have already listed. You can find components online on sites like Sparkfun, Digikey, Mouser and other online vendors.

When you’ve picked your components, start studying the datasheets to properly understand how it works. You’ll find detailed specs about the components and its working. These are the bits and pieces of information you should consider during programming to ensure it fits your project.

Step 6: Pick your projects:

You want to start with mini projects. When it comes to embedded systems programming, learning is often easier the more you practice. Mini projects are not going to be anything too complicated but will give you enough challenge and practice moving forward to your real objectives. Start with the microcontroller kits and look for a few projects online. After you’ve been working on these for a bit, you can start your actual project with more experience and knowledge.

These are the six steps you need to take in order to start learning embedded systems. Remember that practice makes perfect and join forums like Embedded Stackexchange to ask questions during your learning process. Embedded systems is not impossible to learn – you just need to stay patient and keep pushing forward. Those big moments of discovery will happen!

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