Information Technology (IT) is a resounding word in our daily lives today. IT has revolutionised the way we work, plan our lives, travel, etc. The latest buzz-word in the IT field is embedded software. Embedded software, another technical term for software that is embedded on a chip which is then assembled as part of an equipment, has caught the imagination of students and employers alike.The application of embedded software today has become universal and it is used in almost all our everyday gadgets. Thus the future is bright for a career in this field.
The skill sets one needs for a career in embedded software would be: knowledge of Assembly language / a higher language such as C++, a logical and methodical approach to problem solving, good visualisation of the problem as well as the end-product, and capability for hard work and meeting deadlines.
It is not surprising that IT is also into producing musical instruments! Embedded software development in the specialised field of musical instruments can be a highly rewarding career, and even more so when the job is with the pioneer in the field. Right in the heart of India’s Silicon Valley housing the likes of global giants Infosys and Wipro, the Electronics City in Bangalore is also home to a small scale industry that has revolutionised the lives of Indian classical musicians. Radel Electronics Pvt. Ltd. is celebrating 25 years of ‘Inventions for Music’. Radel has been pioneering the design and manufacture of Indian electronic musical instruments with the electronic tanpura ‘Saarang’, electronic sruthibox ‘Dhruva’, electronic tabla ‘Taalmala’ and now, even a Digital Veena! All these exciting products are completely designed in-house and many of these are exported out of the country. An ISO 9001:2000 company, Radel is the only musical instrument manufacturer in the country to receive this international certification of quality.
What makes these products of Radel unique is the fact that these employ embedded software loaded into advanced state of the art micro-controllers that enables users to even modify or alter some of the features. For instance, the software running inside the Taalmala tabla allows the user to either modify an existing ‘theka’ (rhythmic pattern) or create an entirely new one and store it in memory for later use. Micro-controllers are literally computers on a chip with embedded software (referred to as ‘firmware’) programmed into it by the manufacturer of a product. This software is specially developed to suit a particular application. Hence, it is possible for the same micro-controller to be used as part of a security system or a washing machine or even a musical instrument. It is primarily the embedded software that makes it operate in a particular manner in each of these applications. In the case of a musical instrument, the same micro-controller generates various musical notes of a tanpura or tabla, as the case may be, at various pitch and tempo settings. Radel has been involved in the development of such software since 1987 when it developed the first ever micro-processor based electronic tabla. This instrument revolutionised the way North Indian musicians practice their music. Earlier, they had to be completely reliant on the services of a tabla artiste to accompany them even during their practice sessions. Now these musicians practice at any time of the day or night for as long as they want with the aid of Radel’s ‘Taalmala’ tabla that plays by itself! The latest in the series of inventions is the digital veena. The digital veena is basically a synthesiser (like a keyboard synthesizer), but played like a veena with all the gamakams of Karnatic music. It shows the immense possibilities that today’s technology can achieve. Embedded software in musical instruments truly represents a marriage of science with art!
The author is Shri G. Raj Narayan (1974/MT/EE) Managing Director, Radel Electronics (P) Limited, Bangalore. He is a recipient of the National Award of Special Recognition for R&D, by the Mnistry of MSME, GOI. Meet him at his talk “Innovation as a Way of Life” on January 24th at 4PM in DOMS 401.