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The history of over the wire/air updates and embedded devices

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From a historical viewpoint has being able to do over the wire/air firmware updates been a feature of embedded devices forever, or only something that appeared in the last 15 years or so?

I'm thinking of those devices that are smart enough to 'phone home', query to see if an update is available, download it and reprogram itself, rather than relatively dumb devices that have to be forced into a special bootloader/update state by a parent device that pushes the update.

I guess this became possible when FLASH memory was created. You need the ability to erase the memory electrically to reprogram it, and the early embedded systems used PROM's or EPROM's  and needed to swap these with newly programmed ones. In case of the EPROM it was of course possible to erase it, but one needed an ultraviolet light source for it.

The EEPROM's that followed could and can be programmed in the field, but I don't know if these where used for actual firmware.

More that 15 years ago most of these devices didn't have a internet connection in the first place.

At the same time we did need to get cheep flash technology. Sure we had flash way before but firmware storage was still some kind of ROM.

Roughly 15 years ago is also when the PlayStation 3 was released. It had a Ethernet port built in since release and it could download game patches to its internal hard drive.

In-applicaiton Firmware update became relevant when flash devices became common, late 80's, early 90's. E(E)PROMS were not good enough for this function - usually requiring a technician to update.

Automotive modules such as ECMs and BCMs have been updateable for at least 20 years, although only at a dealer using brand specific tools.

Wireless updates have only started showing up in the last 5 years or so.  Particularly with cars the security challenges are significant.  It also really annoys customers when they park their car and an update fails overnight resulting in a bricked vehicle in the morning (and yes, that has happened).


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