A real-time operating system for microcontrollers

Keeping It Real

Article from Issue 283/2024

Exploit the full power of your microcontroller with the FreeRTOS multitasking operating system.

My desktop computer uses an operating system (OS) – Linux, of course – but "operating system" is a very loose term, often describing everything that makes a computer work, from launching programs, communicating over a network, managing filesystems, and presenting the user with a sophisticated graphical user interface. Much of this functionality lies outside of the kernel of the OS, and many computers are used in such a way that they don't need some of these facilities: specifically, servers that generally run headless with administrative and user access performed over some form of network.

In the world of embedded computers, a real-time operating system (RTOS) is much more focused on being a kernel. The simplest microcontroller might require no OS at all, which is known as bare metal programming. Many microcontroller applications are written in this way, and with the judicious use of timers and interrupts, a version of multitasking can be obtained. At some point, however, this cooperative multitasking can lead to spaghetti code that is difficult to understand, debug, and maintain.

Somewhere in the spectrum of applications, from a humble microcontroller sensing when to pop the toast out of your toaster to a complex navigation and control system for a robot, a point is reached wherein some sort of operating system is desirable or even necessary. This type of operating system, RTOS, does not at first glance bear too much resemblance to a server or desktop OS.


Use Express-Checkout link below to read the full article (PDF).

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • NEWS

    Updates on technologies, trends, and tools.

  • Electronic Weighing

    Create your own weighing device with easily available components and open source software.

  • RISC-V

    The open source RISC-V processor architecture is poised to shake up the processor industry. Thanks to the Qemu emulator, you can get to know the RISC-V without waiting for affordable hardware.

  • Yocto

    The Yocto project gives you all the tools you'll need to build a custom Linux for IoT device.

  • Kernel News

    Chronicler Zack Brown reports on the latest news, views, dilemmas, and developments within the Linux kernel community.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More