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Managing Software Development in Microprocessor Projects Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131320D
Original Publication Date: 1978-Jun-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-10
Document File: 14 page(s) / 48K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Celeste S. Magers: AUTHOR [+3]


Careful management of firmware development effort and selection of appropriate design tools can improve programmer productivity.

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Managing Software Development in Microprocessor Projects

Celeste S. Magers

Digital Equipment Corporation

Careful management of firmware development effort and selection of appropriate design tools can improve programmer productivity.

During the past five years the use of microprocessors in electronic applications, including the production of computer elements, has increased enormously. One of the principal characteristics of this use is the large amount of device functionality that frequently ends up residing in software rather than hardware. In the 1970's software development costs started to dominate total project costs (as shown in Figure 1) in large-systems applications.34 The same cost proportions seem to be holding for the increasing body of experience with microprocessors. Since software development is a labor-intensive activity, enhancing programmer productivity is an important element in lowering software cost. In addition, the development of microprocessor software is often found to be the longest and least compressible element in the microprocessor project schedule, and in many cases it is on the project critical path.

For these reasons managers of microprocessor projects, often experienced in hardware development rather than the development of complex software, need to learn more about managing software development for microprocessors. For this purpose managers should know something about the profiles of typical software developers, rates of programmer productivity, phases of microprocessor software development, and development aids available to assist the programming effort and enhance programmer productivity.

Microprocessor software

Before discussing microprocessor software project management, it is important to clarify some microprocessor software terminology and to note how it differs from traditional software. Microprocessor software is often called "firmware" because it is typically resident in read-only memory devices and is, therefore, unchangeable. This term is traditionally used to represent the content of control store memory in microprogrammable computers, however, rather than microprocessor software. The term "microprogramming" has also recently been adopted to mean microprocessor programming; however, this term is even more often confused with its traditional meaning of writing the microcode /sub-machine-language level instructions) for control store processors. Therefore, the use of either the term firmware or microprogramming for microprocessor programs can be misleading. The terms "m...