Tips for Hardware Designers in Toronto

October 9, 2018

If you are a hardware designer in Toronto then you are probably aware that system design embedding requires hardware comprehension, along with knowledge of how software will interact and affect the respective hardware. It is worth noting that hardware design and software design can be two very different animals, and the engineering paradigm involved may be completely contrary. As such, if you are planning on making the transition from hardware to software design then the tips below may make that transition a little easier.

Create a Flowchart Before You Implement

Many engineers who set foot in the software realm will feel tempted to take the plunge and start coding as soon as possible. However, to avoid common software pitfalls and to make your transition easier and more efficient, you should first create a flowchart that includes an architectural blueprint of the software involved. By doing so, the developer involved will have a better understanding of the parts that are needed for the application. Another way of looking at it is how a schematic can be used by an engineer in order to determine which components are required for their hardware.

The end result is a marked improvement in organization, as well as significant time savings; this is because the amount of debugging involved will be drastically reduced since everything will be well thought out and mapped before implementation takes place.

Control Program Flow Via State Machines

The state machine was created during the 20th century, and is arguably one of the greatest software inventions of all time. An application can be divided into several state machines with each component controlling a certain part of the application. That is, each state machine has its own unique transitions and internal states that determine how the software will respond to different stimuli.

As such, if you decide to use state machines to design your software they will allow it to be easy to comprehend, as well more maintainable and modular. There is also a myriad of resources that showcase state machine theory and algorithms, so taking the time to do the proper research may help in the ease of software development in the long run.

Avoid Global Variables

We have come a long way since the antiquated days of functional programming. For those who don’t remember or weren’t even born back then, functionality used to supersede form. In other words, in the old days the primary objective of a programmer was to make a program function as intended, in the shortest amount of time, without caring about program reusability or structure.

The aforementioned paradigm had zero apprehension about implementing global variables that any function found within the software could modify. What ended happening in many cases was the program became susceptible to variable misuses and corruption.

Today, object orientation is the name of the game, and variables should be encapsulated and defined in the smallest scope possible. By doing, to the chances of variable corruption and functions misusing the variable become highly improbable. Hence, variables that use a global scope should be kept to a minimum. Moreover, you can easily identify global scope variables by using the extern keyword in the C language.

Use Modularity to Your Advantage

If you were to ask most engineers what component of a project is most likely to exceed a given budget or launch date, you will likely hear the word “software pop-up” quite often. Many software applications are difficult to maintain and develop and can be very complicated in different regards. Things are further complicated when the entire application is located in a singular file, or if there are several files involved that are very loosely correlated.

In order to reduce complexity, increase reusability and simply maintainability, taking full advantage of the modularity that most programming languages provide today comes highly recommended. By doing so, you will able to divide common functionalities down into modules. In other words, breaking code down in such a way will allow the programmer involved to construct feature and function libraries that can be reused across multiple apps. The ongoing testing that is involved will also enhance code quality, while you will save time and reduce development costs in the process as well.

Ensure that Interrupt Service Routines are Simplified

The purpose of an interrupt service routine is to interrupt the processor from the branch code that is being executed presently so that the peripheral in question is handled properly. When an interrupt is triggered, a given amount of overhead is needed so that the current program state can be saved. Furthermore, the interrupt must also be run, and a certain amount of overhead also needed in order to revert the processor back to its initial program state.

Evidently, technology has come a long way since the obsolete processors of the 80s and 90s, but overhead will always be an issue that needs to be factored into any engineering project. The general rule of thumb is that programmers should reduce the amount of time they spend on interrupts so that the primary branch of code is not interfered with. That is, the goal is to keep the interrupts as simple and brief as possible. It is also a huge faux pas if functions are called from an interrupt.

Finally, in the event that an interrupt takes up too much time or becomes too complicated it should be utilized to perform the absolute minimum required at that time (i.e., load data into a buffer) and also set a flag so that the primary branch can actually compute the incoming data. The end result is that most of the processor’s cycles will actually be used to run the application instead of simply perform interrupts.

If you are a hardware designer in Toronto and would like more tips, please call Circuit Central at 1-888-602-7264 or contact us online.

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