Why Embedded Web Devices USED TO BE Hard
Understanding the Problem
If you are making an industrial control or data acquisition device that you can control at a distance, over a network or the Internet, using a standard web browser like Internet Explorer, this really means that you are turning your ethernet microcontroller device into a dedicated web server.
That's because your device has to serve up web pages to the PC browser. Since you also need to be able to control that device from the browser, those web pages have to be interactive as well. The pages you serve from your device need to have some sort of widgets on them that can let you input data on the browser screen somehow, and then send that data to your device.
(And since your PC browser doesn't have any forehand knowledge about your device, all that interactive content has to come from your embedded web device, which means that it all has to be stored on your inexpensive ethernet microcontroller board in the first place.)
A Lot of Technology
A lot of technology is needed to be able to make all that stuff happen. So, in the bad old days (last week), in addition to your regular duties as a microcontroller circuit designer and firmware expert, YOU got to wear a new hat: YOU got to be a web designer, too!
It may have sounded like fun at first, until you got into it a bit further and realized that the web pages YOU got to design were not simple, easy ones:
- Your pages need to look good, so a customer will want to buy your product.
- They have to be easy to use, for the same reason.
- Oh, and your pages also have to fit, in the small amount of storage space in that inexpensive ethernet microcontroller board of yours.
So, you needed to be more than just any web designer. YOU had to become an expert web designer, familiar with the latest web technologies: expert enough to be aware of which approaches can be small enough to fit in a microcontroller. That's a very special skill set indeed, one that always took some time to learn.
(Your boss DID give you as much time as you want to get your project done, right???)
Even "Simple" Pages Could Be Complicated
Even those "simple" web pages could be a challenge to lay out if you weren't a full time web expert.
Think about it. If you've ever designed even a single, static web page that contains an image, you know that the limits and complexity of HTML and CSS can give you surprises at times.
You would try to place the image at a certain spot relative to the surrounding text, but at times it just wouldn't cooperate.
And sometimes, you would find that you can get your design to look OK in one browser (like Firefox), but not in a different browser (like Internet Explorer).
As your layout got more complex, requiring things like blocks of text on the right side, and interactive controls, the more skill the project would demand from you. You'd get frustrated and stressed. You'd think "There just HAS to be a better way..."
"Dude, Where's My Data?"
When it came down to sending and receiving your data, things got even worse.
It was especially difficult to answer the most important question of all: "How do I modify this software example to get it to do what I need it to do???
And once again, you'd think to yourself, "There just HAS to be a better way..."
Like We Said, Those Were The BAD OLD DAYS - Last Week!
But now there IS a better way. It's called TCPmaker Pro.
Next: TCPmaker's Way >>