Purpose-built Systems

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The challenges of delivering a reliable, easy-to-use DVR service to the masses

One of the greatest challenges of designing a computer system is in making sure the system itself is "invisible" to the user. The system should simply be a conduit to the desired result. There are many examples of such purpose-built systems, ranging from modern automobiles to mobile phones.

by Jim Barton | May 2, 2006


The (not so) Hidden Computer:
The growing complexity of purpose-built systems is making it difficult to conceal the computers within.

Ubiquitous computing may not have arrived yet, but ubiquitous computers certainly have. The sustained improvements wrought by the fulfillment of Moore’s law have led to the use of microprocessors in a vast array of consumer products. A typical car contains 50 to 100 processors. Your microwave has one or maybe more. They’re in your TV, your phone, your refrigerator, your kids’ toys, and in some cases, your toothbrush.

by Terry Coatta | May 2, 2006


A Conversation with Chuck McManis:
Developing systems with a purpose: do one thing, and do it well.

When thinking about purpose-built systems, it’s easy to focus on the high-visibility consumer products: the iPods, the TiVos. Lying in the shadows of the corporate data center, however, are a number of less-glamorous devices built primarily to do one specific thing: and do it well and reliably.

by Charlene O'Hanlon | May 2, 2006


A Conversation with Mike Deliman:
And you think your operating system needs to be reliable.

Mike Deliman was pretty busy last January when the Mars rover Spirit developed memory and communications problems shortly after landing on the Red Planet. He is a member of the team at Wind River Systems who created the operating system at the heart of the Mars rovers, and he was among those working nearly around the clock to discover and solve the problem that had mysteriously halted the mission on Mars.

by George Neville-Neil | November 30, 2004


Opinion: Voting Machine Hell:
Garbage in, garbage out—it’s that simple.

There has been much commentary from computer scientists on the advantages and disadvantages of various electronic voting schemes. More holes have been poked in the current electronic designs than were punched in the cards used in Florida.

by Jef Raskin | May 5, 2004