The mule of embedded computing

June 10, 2019

I was reminded the other day how some things just seem to last. A friend of mine was attending the annual Mule Day celebration in Columbia, Tennessee. It caught my attention as I spent part of my childhood in Columbia – and, even then, marveled at some of the celebrations that didn’t necessarily resonate very well with my generation.

It turns out the venerable mule has literally been part of civilization for thousands of years; archaeological history indicates they were known in Egypt before 3000 BC. American history indicates that George Washington is responsible for the acceptance and the growth of the mule population as he is recognized as one of the original American breeders (mules are basically a donkey/horse hybrid), Interestingly, up until about 1957, mules played a significant role in military history also. Mules, it seems, have always been recognized for their ability to work and their reliability.

The obvious embedded/industrial system analogy for me was VMEbus and the fact that it can still be put to use and is one of the most reliable form factors to have come along. Much like the mule, it is a hybrid technology: VME was spawned originally from a marriage of the Motorola 68K CPU and the Eurocard standard.


VMEbus celebrated its 30th anniversary back in 2011 and has had several milestones along the way including being adopted for usage in the Navy’s Trident submarine in 1987, the VME64 VITA 1-1994 standard and the VME64x ANSI/VITA 1.1-1997 standard.

Abaco’s XVB603 (ANSI/VITA 1-1994 compliant) and XVR19 (ANSI/VITA 1.1-1997 compliant) 6U VME single board computers are based on the latest Intel processing technology and take advantage of Abaco’s VivoVMEbus technology. They’re readily available for insertion into rugged industrial and military applications. These products support a minimum 10 year lifecycle and are up to the challenge of supporting VME requirements for many decades to come.

I don’t think, of course, that VME will last as long as the mule has - but it clearly has some staying power, and will be around for several decades to come.

About the Author

David Pepper | Sr Product Mgr

David is a senior product manager at Abaco. He joined what was then GE Fanuc in 1998 from VMIC, one of a number of companies GE acquired in building its embedded computing business. He graduated from Athens State University in 1980.

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