I have made my living for 28 years now designing embedded systems.
Remarkably, you have just told Stan that my line of work is "passed
the bounds of the practical". Please do a Google search on "Embedded
Systems" and you will discover that there is an entire thriving
industry that you seem entirely unaware of.
Embedded systems typically employ a kernel written in-house (as, for
example, ES&S's DREs do) or an RTOS (Real Time Operating System), of
which there are more than a hundred on the market. You may wish to
Google that term, too.
There are hundreds of specialized processors from all the major
manufacturers that are tailored to specific niches of the embedded
Intel, realizing it was missing the embedded market because it
end-of-lifes its desktop CPUs three years after introduction, now
introduces a new x86 chip from time to time that is guaranteed to
remain in production as long as there is a demand for it. For this
reason, most embedded systems that use x86 CPUs use some variant of a
486 or 386.
Microsoft introduced CE in order to try to get into the embedded
systems market. It has gained some popularity among non-critical
applications. However, no critical device uses a Microsoft OS and
few use Linux; by critical device I mean, for example, a Class 3 or
class 2 FDA device or avionics systems certified under RTCA/DO-178B.
Your comments leave me no choice but to conclude that you have no
knowledge of the entire arena of computer engineering that Stan and
I, among others, have been discussing.
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You raise some interesting theoretical issues, but my sense of it is
that you have passed the bounds of the practical. The economic basis of
computers was and is that they may run more than one program. It does
not have to be this way; you could design and build a dedicated,
one-purpose machine with hardware and software all custom crafted.
Quite expensive, really, since all development costs must be amortized
over one specialized application. The profit potential is limited,
given the costs of development, so no private party would want to do
this. Are you sure that the political realities are such that the U.S.
Government in a time of deficit would choose to spend money on elections
rather than tax cuts? I might agree with you on the desired approach to
election equipment, but I am not very influential regarding the federal
government's spending plans.
The fact of the matter is that in the real world we have MS Windows and
Linux from which to choose, generic PC firmware and hardware,
specialized and general purpose printers, proprietary hardware, and
either open source or proprietary specialized voting software. From
this mix, all US voting systems will certainly emerge. We do have the
option of specifiying Open Test to supplement the existing proprietary,
private, and inscrutible test organizations currently providing
certification. Our standards must provide a measure of how well an
individual voting system is likely to function, given our understood
Otherwise, although interesting, speculation about total custom voting
systems (Open Source and Open Hardware Designs?) does not seem helpful
except in order to highlight what is needed in the real world.
This is my personal and professional opinion, and it does not
necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.
Richard C. Johnson, Ph.D.