More than 6 billion processors of all types (4-bit to 64-bit plus DSPs) were sold in 2002. That astonishing number was actually off about 25% from the record volume of over 8 billion recorded two years earlier. Only about 100 million of those chips (just 1.5%) became the brains of PCs, Macs, and UNIX workstations born each year; embedded systems designers are the cause of the rest.
With about one new processor taking hold per person per year, it would be fair to say embedded systems are everywhere—or soon will be. The technology is only three decades old at this point—imagine the ultimate potential! Applications span the realm of imagination. Think of the number and diversity of insects and you’re on the right track.
There are so many different applications, and thus so many different types of embedded processors, in fact, that it’s becoming increasingly valuable in some circles to break that huge market up into more easily digested chunks. Applications can be grouped roughly into about seven key categories: communications, computer peripherals, industrial controls, military/aerospace, consumer, medical, and automotive, plus the obligatory catchall other/miscellaneous. These are termed vertical markets.
We should give some thought to what it is that ties all of the many vertical markets together. There is significant overlap between the work of designers of embedded systems for applications as seemingly diverse as consumer gadgets and military/aerospace systems. I suspect it is in this overlap that you find your identity as an embedded system designer.