Is VHDL+FPGA knowledge useful for Embedded engineer?

Discussion in 'VHDL' started by Chandresh, Jul 31, 2006.

  1. Chandresh

    Chandresh Guest

    Hello everyone,

    I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    (Software).
    Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    Please guide.

    Thanks,

    Chandresh
    Chandresh, Jul 31, 2006
    #1
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  2. Chandresh

    Uncle Noah Guest

    > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > (Software).


    OK.

    > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > Please guide.


    You can take either of two ways:

    1. Old-school. Work with COTS (microprocessors and 74xxx, 4xxx digital
    ICs). Maybe you are here given your PIC experience.

    2. New-school. Prototyping of embedded systems. You'll need CPLDs,
    FPGAs, and an HDL.

    Is the overview class some kind of "quick seminar" class? It will take
    for more than that, be prepared.
    Uncle Noah, Aug 1, 2006
    #2
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  3. Chandresh

    Chandresh Guest

    Uncle Noah wrote:
    > > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > > (Software).

    >
    > OK.
    >
    > > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > > Please guide.

    >
    > You can take either of two ways:
    >
    > 1. Old-school. Work with COTS (microprocessors and 74xxx, 4xxx digital
    > ICs). Maybe you are here given your PIC experience.
    >
    > 2. New-school. Prototyping of embedded systems. You'll need CPLDs,
    > FPGAs, and an HDL.
    >
    > Is the overview class some kind of "quick seminar" class? It will take
    > for more than that, be prepared.


    Thanks for reply. I have to select courses for Fall 2006 semester. One
    course is Software Engineer that covers software development process
    and the other is Modern Digital Design which covers VHDL and FPGA
    programming. I already completed Embedded systems that covered
    PIC16F877 microcontroller.
    I asked my friend who works in Motorola, He replied me that VHDL is
    more related to semiconductor design jobs whereas Embedded systems
    requires good programming skills. My confusion is that both courses
    seem useful but I can take only one. According to my perspective,
    Software development knowledge is useful anywhere while VHDL+FPGA would
    also be good knowledge tools for an embedded engineer. I want to relate
    my study classes with their usefulness in future job rather than only
    good or better courses thats why I am asking this here to you people
    who are already working in the field.

    Thanks,

    Chandresh
    Chandresh, Aug 1, 2006
    #3
  4. Chandresh

    dmoore Guest

    Nobody that uses PIC Microcontrollers has the money to hire a "Software
    Engineer".

    Embedded systems really means using Perl,C++,Java in an small/medium
    company
    writing Apps on a Windows platform (WIN/CE?) or a Unix variant
    (Linux,Symbian,Palm)
    to integrate niche technology libraries/tools (eg. maybe wireless
    stacks) from micro sized
    companies. So 7/10 times there'll be no difference in your job tasks
    between embedded systems/desktop systems/server systems.

    I don't see any point in bothering with an extra SW Eng. course Sw. Eng
    is a buzz word
    and its mileage may vary (greatly).

    A VHDL/FPGA course could potentially be very useful but _you need to
    figure out
    what your motivation to learn it would be.


    ------------------------------------------
    Chandresh wrote:
    > Hello everyone,
    >
    > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > (Software).
    > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > Please guide.
    >
    > Thanks,
    >
    > Chandresh
    dmoore, Aug 1, 2006
    #4
  5. Chandresh

    Chandresh Guest

    Thanks a lot.
    I am really happy that people like you are here to reply our questions.
    I really appreciate your kind interest.
    You gave me the information that I was really looking for. But I am
    surprised to know that there is no difference between the job skills of
    an Embedded Engineer and a Computer / Software engineer. I dont think
    that I can learn Perl, Java in my department then how can I get in to
    this area? Basically I am an Instrumentation & Control Engineer with
    some academic experience in Biomedical Engineering. Now I am doing MS
    in ECE. My intension is to learn things that can help me to get a good
    job and that too quickly. I came to know that there are lots of jobs
    in Embedded systems so I choose this field.

    Can you please tell me more about job scope and skills required for
    VHDL+FPGA field?

    Thanks again,

    Chandresh
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    dmoore wrote:
    > Nobody that uses PIC Microcontrollers has the money to hire a "Software
    > Engineer".
    >
    > Embedded systems really means using Perl,C++,Java in an small/medium
    > company
    > writing Apps on a Windows platform (WIN/CE?) or a Unix variant
    > (Linux,Symbian,Palm)
    > to integrate niche technology libraries/tools (eg. maybe wireless
    > stacks) from micro sized
    > companies. So 7/10 times there'll be no difference in your job tasks
    > between embedded systems/desktop systems/server systems.
    >
    > I don't see any point in bothering with an extra SW Eng. course Sw. Eng
    > is a buzz word
    > and its mileage may vary (greatly).
    >
    > A VHDL/FPGA course could potentially be very useful but _you need to
    > figure out
    > what your motivation to learn it would be.
    >
    >
    > ------------------------------------------
    > Chandresh wrote:
    > > Hello everyone,
    > >
    > > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > > (Software).
    > > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > > Please guide.
    > >
    > > Thanks,
    > >
    > > Chandresh
    Chandresh, Aug 1, 2006
    #5
  6. Chandresh

    dmoore Guest


    > You gave me the information that I was really looking for. But I am
    > surprised to know that there is no difference between the job skills of
    > an Embedded Engineer and a Computer / Software engineer. I dont think


    Well they both have to use the prevailing market tools and technologies
    (some
    version of Windows/Unix) to write software apps which (7/10 times) as
    far as
    the app programmer is concerned are pretty much the same underlying
    technologies.
    However, in the Academic world you will find a preference for the
    theoretical
    which permits the exploration of certain topics in a more comprehensive
    and
    deeper way which allows them to "make up" courses - whether they are
    even
    useful can also be debated, for example on one course I was on they
    gave a
    6 hour lecture on Processor Cache Design which culminated in the issue
    of
    Cache sizing and this was given as a 4 week student practical. This was

    certainly a deeper theoretical treatment, but the whole exercise was
    quite
    useless since every single CPU Project known and unknown to man has
    always made the Cache as big as possible.
    Meanwhile back in the real world 7/10 times this theory side of things
    wont be
    much(any?) use to you. Thats just the way it is -- check the job ads.
    This is
    why it is usual to get a job and do an MSc part-time as it will not
    make you
    more employable - a Ph.D will do that.

    > Can you please tell me more about job scope and skills required for
    > VHDL+FPGA field?


    Digital logic design and HDLs is a very big area and you must decide
    what you want to get out of it. Check your local job ads to see what
    your
    local employers are doing with these technologies.


    Regards.
    dmoore, Aug 1, 2006
    #6
  7. Chandresh

    Noway2 Guest

    Chandresh wrote:
    > Hello everyone,
    >
    > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > (Software).
    > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > Please guide.
    >
    > Thanks,
    >
    > Chandresh


    I have been holding off a bit to see what kind of advice you received
    before putting in my .02C worth. First, I want to say that I disagree
    with the comment that 'embedded systems' is predominantly writing java
    or perl for a Win CE platform. I also disagree with the comment that
    any company that uses PICs won't bother to higher any real software
    engineers. Every company that I have worked for has used a wide range
    of processor platforms ranging from PICs to high end DSPs. All of
    these companies have had software and hardware engineers working on
    these projects. Additionally, just about every project that was
    significant in size incorporated programmable logic (VHDL / FPGA), but
    not from the perspective of IC design, though this is one area that
    VHDL is applicable to.

    Over time, I have come to realize that in larger companies, there is
    seems to be a strong split between the hardware and software developers
    and engineers are typically assigned a specific portion of a project -
    and thats it. Smaller companies, though, usually don't have this
    luxury and the engineers have to be more versatile. It would be in
    your best interests, unless you plan to only work for large or very
    large companies, to have as diverse of a background as possible.

    There are two reasons why I would recommend the courses on VHDL and
    FPGAs. The first is that it has been shown that most successfull
    products are successfull at least in part because of their ability to
    expanded and adapted to unforseen needs. One of the easiest ways to
    provide for this expansion is through programmable logic. The second
    reason is that as products are required to provide more features, use
    less power, be smaller and faster, the response has been towards higher
    levels of integration. Use of programmable logic, such as FPGAs and
    CPLDS fits very well with this trend as they are increasingly replacing
    other 'glue logic'.

    I would also like to say that. one of the other distinctions that I
    have seen between a computer science type (programmer) and an embedded
    systems (programmer) is that the person developing for the embedded
    systems usually has to have a stronger handle on understanding the
    hardware. This need to understand the hardware stems from the fact
    that you don't always have a well defined operating system providing a
    nice clean HAL. Instead, many times the embedded developer has to
    control the IO directly and handle hardware events such as interrupts
    and raw sensor data.
    Noway2, Aug 4, 2006
    #7
  8. I basically agree with what "Noway2" wrote, however, my conclusion is a
    little bit different:

    Best would be to have both the VHDL and the embedded-software-knowledge, but
    if you have to decide, I would go for the embedded-software-course,
    espcially if this is what you want to in the future. Simply because software
    is used in almost every embedded project, and it also opens a chance for
    PC-programming, while FPGA-projects are more limited (but growing).

    Regards,

    Thomas

    www.entner-electronics.com

    "Noway2" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    news:...
    > Chandresh wrote:
    >> Hello everyone,
    >>
    >> I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    >> Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    >> (Software).
    >> Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    >> Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    >> make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    >> Please guide.
    >>
    >> Thanks,
    >>
    >> Chandresh

    >
    > I have been holding off a bit to see what kind of advice you received
    > before putting in my .02C worth. First, I want to say that I disagree
    > with the comment that 'embedded systems' is predominantly writing java
    > or perl for a Win CE platform. I also disagree with the comment that
    > any company that uses PICs won't bother to higher any real software
    > engineers. Every company that I have worked for has used a wide range
    > of processor platforms ranging from PICs to high end DSPs. All of
    > these companies have had software and hardware engineers working on
    > these projects. Additionally, just about every project that was
    > significant in size incorporated programmable logic (VHDL / FPGA), but
    > not from the perspective of IC design, though this is one area that
    > VHDL is applicable to.
    >
    > Over time, I have come to realize that in larger companies, there is
    > seems to be a strong split between the hardware and software developers
    > and engineers are typically assigned a specific portion of a project -
    > and thats it. Smaller companies, though, usually don't have this
    > luxury and the engineers have to be more versatile. It would be in
    > your best interests, unless you plan to only work for large or very
    > large companies, to have as diverse of a background as possible.
    >
    > There are two reasons why I would recommend the courses on VHDL and
    > FPGAs. The first is that it has been shown that most successfull
    > products are successfull at least in part because of their ability to
    > expanded and adapted to unforseen needs. One of the easiest ways to
    > provide for this expansion is through programmable logic. The second
    > reason is that as products are required to provide more features, use
    > less power, be smaller and faster, the response has been towards higher
    > levels of integration. Use of programmable logic, such as FPGAs and
    > CPLDS fits very well with this trend as they are increasingly replacing
    > other 'glue logic'.
    >
    > I would also like to say that. one of the other distinctions that I
    > have seen between a computer science type (programmer) and an embedded
    > systems (programmer) is that the person developing for the embedded
    > systems usually has to have a stronger handle on understanding the
    > hardware. This need to understand the hardware stems from the fact
    > that you don't always have a well defined operating system providing a
    > nice clean HAL. Instead, many times the embedded developer has to
    > control the IO directly and handle hardware events such as interrupts
    > and raw sensor data.
    >
    Thomas Entner, Aug 4, 2006
    #8
  9. Chandresh

    Chandresh Guest

    Thanks "Noway" and Thomas. You understood my query perfectly and your
    reply is complete and crystal clear. Now I can see the picture more
    clearly. Thanks again.

    However I would like to know about the job prospects of an Electrical
    Engineer with Master's degree in US, I took courses like Embedded
    systems, Advanced Embedded Sysytems, Modern Digital Design(VHDL+FPGA),
    Advanced control system design, Dynamics and control of MEMS and a
    thesis in Embedded systems. This is my plan of study. i already
    completed half of this. As you wrote about diversity, I have work
    experience in Biomedical and Power plant instrumentation (DCS, PLC
    etc.).

    Regards,
    Chandresh

    Noway2 wrote:
    > Chandresh wrote:
    > > Hello everyone,
    > >
    > > I am a graduate student in ECE. I took Embedded class(PIC
    > > Microcontroller) and now I want to make a career in Embedded Systems
    > > (Software).
    > > Is VHDL and FPGA class knowledge useful for Embedded engineer or basic
    > > Software development process course would be more useful? I have to
    > > make choice between VHDL +FPGA & Software engineering overview class.
    > > Please guide.
    > >
    > > Thanks,
    > >
    > > Chandresh

    >
    > I have been holding off a bit to see what kind of advice you received
    > before putting in my .02C worth. First, I want to say that I disagree
    > with the comment that 'embedded systems' is predominantly writing java
    > or perl for a Win CE platform. I also disagree with the comment that
    > any company that uses PICs won't bother to higher any real software
    > engineers. Every company that I have worked for has used a wide range
    > of processor platforms ranging from PICs to high end DSPs. All of
    > these companies have had software and hardware engineers working on
    > these projects. Additionally, just about every project that was
    > significant in size incorporated programmable logic (VHDL / FPGA), but
    > not from the perspective of IC design, though this is one area that
    > VHDL is applicable to.
    >
    > Over time, I have come to realize that in larger companies, there is
    > seems to be a strong split between the hardware and software developers
    > and engineers are typically assigned a specific portion of a project -
    > and thats it. Smaller companies, though, usually don't have this
    > luxury and the engineers have to be more versatile. It would be in
    > your best interests, unless you plan to only work for large or very
    > large companies, to have as diverse of a background as possible.
    >
    > There are two reasons why I would recommend the courses on VHDL and
    > FPGAs. The first is that it has been shown that most successfull
    > products are successfull at least in part because of their ability to
    > expanded and adapted to unforseen needs. One of the easiest ways to
    > provide for this expansion is through programmable logic. The second
    > reason is that as products are required to provide more features, use
    > less power, be smaller and faster, the response has been towards higher
    > levels of integration. Use of programmable logic, such as FPGAs and
    > CPLDS fits very well with this trend as they are increasingly replacing
    > other 'glue logic'.
    >
    > I would also like to say that. one of the other distinctions that I
    > have seen between a computer science type (programmer) and an embedded
    > systems (programmer) is that the person developing for the embedded
    > systems usually has to have a stronger handle on understanding the
    > hardware. This need to understand the hardware stems from the fact
    > that you don't always have a well defined operating system providing a
    > nice clean HAL. Instead, many times the embedded developer has to
    > control the IO directly and handle hardware events such as interrupts
    > and raw sensor data.
    Chandresh, Aug 5, 2006
    #9
  10. Thomas wrote "while FPGA-projects are more limited "

    There is nothing which is less limited than FPGAs :)

    Seriously, current FPGAs come at least with soft cores, emulating
    embedded uCs und DSPs if they do not have already a built in hard core
    Power PC or what ever. So, there will be some demand of programmers
    (even for JAVA) also for such projects.

    One the other hand, I sometimes have the impression, that there are
    more JAVA and C-Programmers around, than birds in the trees, so
    focussing the "hard" issues of a design might be the best chance to get
    jobs and/or projects. And allthough an embedded programmer deals with
    IO, ADC and signal structures like busses and so on, too - modern
    FPGA-Design is the more complex and tricky thing. But it requires an
    engineering background since it usually appears within high speed
    designs, where many "analog issues" and physical signal problems occur.
    (Never heard of a setup violation problem concerning a class
    constructor :) )

    Coming from the soft domain, the programming skills should be the first
    to enlarge. Getting familiar with some uCs and DSPs
    homoalteraiensis, Aug 6, 2006
    #10
  11. Chandresh

    dmoore Guest

    Hi,

    I stand by my comments because they were based on my scanning of job
    adverts and experience for my geography and I would recommend that you
    adopt a similar approach.
    Find out what recruiters are hiring grad students in your area and why.
    dmoore, Aug 7, 2006
    #11
  12. Chandresh

    D Stanford Guest

    Chandrash --

    To me, embedded means something closely tied with hardware. The
    embedded work I do has FPGA designers and also C++ Software Engineers.
    Obviously if you want to do the chip design, a VHDL course can help. If
    you want to stay on the software side, the VHDL course can still help.
    The software engineers I work with that seem to do the best are those
    that are very familiar with the lower levels of hardware they are
    working with. Those engineers coming from a more abstract level are not
    as well suited for embedded real time systems.

    Dave
    D Stanford, Aug 9, 2006
    #12
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