To make life easier, we use embedded systems in our day-to-day lives. Developers program these embedded systems with specific programming languages as they must possess certain features. Now let us dive briefly into the subject of embedded systems and walk through the top embedded software programming languages.


What is an Embedded System?


programming languages for embedded systems


Have you asked yourself, “Are video gaming consoles hardware or software?” Well, it’s a combination of both. We all know that hardware is just the machinery components of any system, and software is the set of commands to drive a hardware device. A combination of both could perform amazing tasks. This combination of computer hardware and software is called an embedded system. The digital world we live in today is controlled by microprocessors and microcontrollers, which are a part of embedded systems. From consumer electronics to industrial applications like robotics, embedded systems are used.


Top Embedded Software Programming Languages


1. C Programming

C programming language is the most widely used embedded computer programming language as it is efficient. About 80% of embedded systems are programmed using the C programming language. It is processor independent, portable and is a structured language. It could work on different platforms without making many changes. You have to make slight alterations in coding depending on the Operating Systems(OS). In C, you can efficiently manage the memory by allocating dynamically and statically.


2. Embedded C

Embedded C is nothing but an extension of the C language used for developing microcontroller-based applications. However, if you want to begin embedded computer programming using embedded C, you need to understand the difference between C and Embedded C. In C, compilers are OS-dependent, but Embedded is OS independent. However, Embedded C is hardware dependent which is not the case with C. Also, it is not easy to modify and debug embedded C like C language. Embedded C programming is used at places where the same task has to be performed without hardware change. Some applications of embedded C include TV, DVD and camera.


3. C++

Another widely used language for embedded systems is C++ due to its high stability. C++ is used in many embedded systems, including IoT. While using C++ for embedded systems, you must be careful if you will use it in real-time. Because you have to allocate memory during the start of the program, you also have to create a memory pool for any dynamic allocation of memory. The C++ language is easily portable and is more reliable since it is an object-oriented language. C++ has a good library, so you do not want to write codes; thus, embedded computer programming with C++ saves time. The disadvantage of C++ is that it lacks a garbage collector, and the concept of pointers is challenging to understand. Also, it needs a large amount of storage memory. 


4. Python

Python is younger than C/C++ but has recently been popular due to its simplicity. Also, Python ranks first in the annual iterative IEEE spectrum ranking for programming languages from 2017 till today. Python is an interpreted language, so an embedded Software Engineer need not spend time compiling as they do in compiler languages. This open-source language is very easy to learn as the commands of Python use simple English language. Python is portable and can run on any machine without changing the existing codes. When messages are sent through or from embedded systems, Python allows you to automate testing. When any error occurs in the codes, it is effortless to debug and has good readability. Though it has many advantages, if you want to use Python for real-time applications, you have to perform many tests as it is not deterministic. Python is used chiefly in application processors and as a mode of communication between the user and the embedded system.


5. Java

Choosing Java for embedded systems may easily cut down your cost. Java is highly preferable for GUI applications with more than five screens. Like many other languages Java is also easily portable and is reliable. It offers the facility of remote debugging. This general-purpose language is used as an embedded computer programming language for internet applications and in running Android applications. Yet the language is not suitable for all real-time applications. Coding in Java may take longer as it is pretty verbose, making it complex.


embedded systems programming languages


6. Ada

Ada is known for its safety and reliability. Even though Ada is difficult to understand, the language seems to be the ideal choice for real-time applications. In C language, the pointers may be treated as integrals and data sets which is not in the case of Ada. If you have to code millions of codes, then C may not be able to support you. However, Ada would support you with better module structuring and encapsulation capabilities. Ada is not the widely used language for embedded computer programming but is used where security is of utmost importance, like in military applications. Ada is highly efficient, but it would be a challenge if you want to learn Ada.


7. Assembly

Using Assembly for embedded systems may result in a faster and memory-efficient system. It is a low-level programming language that can directly interact with computer hardware systems. It is of high speed, and the execution is relatively low. Assembly language uses mnemonics, which is similar to machine language. Thus Assembly language is complex to learn and is difficult to read and maintain.



Make Your Choice as an Embedded Software Engineer

There are many embedded computer programming languages used based on the applications. The choice depends on the project that you work on. Before programming your embedded software, do simple research on the embedded computer programming language to get better results. Also, you can choose a course on embedded C programming or embedded computer programming, which can help you better understand the real-time applications and use cases of embedded systems.


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