RTSC in Action: Higher-Level Programming and Higher-Levels of Performance for Embedded C

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - 9:43am

3:30 – 4:30
Computer Science Conference Room, Harold Frank Hall Rm. 1132

HOST: Tim Sherwood

Co-founded Spectron Microsystems
Chief Software Strategist at Texas Instruments

Title: RTSC in Action: Higher-Level Programming and Higher-Levels of
Performance for Embedded C


There is an old adage in Computer Science that goes something like this:
The key to successfully generalizing any program involves introducing
new levels of indirection, while the key to successfully optimizing any
program involves removing these levels of indirection. While all
programmers confront such trade offs, this dilemma especially plagues
developers of resource-constrained embedded systems when trying to
re-use software across different hardware platforms through suitable
layers of abstraction in their code. Since generalizing software for
re-use often comes at the expense of additional memory or MIPS in the
target system, embedded developers must constantly weigh non-recurring
engineering costs against recurring product costs.

Working hand-in-hand with standard C—still, the dominant programming
language amongst embedded developers after three decades—RTSC
effectively takes C to entirely new heights by introducing a
higher-level software component paradigm that fosters greater re-use,
but without incurring the usual runtime overhead associated with this
sort of approach. By recasting C-based content in the form of embedded
software components that are at once rigorously modular yet extremely
configurable and scalable, RTSC opens the door to new levels of
application-specific program-level optimization for resource-constrained
embedded systems that have otherwise eluded us in the past.

Comprising a suite of hosted tools plus some foundational runtime
software, RTSC enables component-based development using any ANSI C
compiler tool-chain that in turn targets any manner of hardware
platform. Developed locally by Texas Instruments as (proprietary)
software infrastructure underlying a wide-range of company products
deployed throughout this decade, TI has recently launched a project at
rtsc.eclipse.org which now renders the RTSC technology
openly-and-freely-available for all.

To illustrate but one aspect of RTSC In Action, this presentation
focuses upon an abstract component-centric design pattern that can be
applied in a wide range of embedded software applications. While
seemingly replete with overhead, RTSC-based designs leveraging this
pattern will almost always yield target code that exceeds the
performance of today’s more ad-hoc and less structured approaches
realized directly in C. Thanks to RTSC, embedded C programmers can now
enjoy higher-level programming and higher-levels of performance


Bob Frankel has recently retired from Texas Instruments, where he held
the position of Chief Software Strategist and the title of TI Fellow.
Before formally joining TI, Bob co-founded Spectron Microsystems here in
Santa Barbara, where he created the world’s first operating system for
DSPs in 1988. After TI acquired Spectron a decade later, Bob served as a
driving force behind TI’s award-winning eXpressDSP strategy, with
special emphasis placed upon proliferating re-usable target software. As
a consequence of this effort, the DSP/BIOS kernel developed earlier by
Spectron has become one of the most widely deployed real-time operating
systems across the industry today. Since 2002, Bob has turned his
attention to creating RTSC—the subject of this presentation, as well as
a series of colloquia to follow; to learn more, visit the RTSC-pedia
where you’ll find both high-level and detailed information alike. With much
of the software he helped birth over the past decades now moving into an
open-source model, Bob plans to remain an active force within these
communities while pursuing his vision of bringing this technology into the
university environment. For those old enough to remember, Bob did
teach CMPSC 160 (plus a handful of other courses whose numbers he
can’t recall) while serving as an adjunct here at UCSB in the early 1980s.