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Chapter: Embedded and Real Time Systems : Case Study

Software Modem

Low-cost modems generally use specialized chips, but some PCs implement the modem functions in software.

Software Modem:

Low-cost modems generally use specialized chips, but some PCs implement the modem functions in software. Before jumping into the modem design itself, we discuss principles of how to transmit digital data over a telephone line. We will then go through a specification and discuss architecture, module design, and testing.


1. Theory of Operation and Requirements


The modem will use frequency-shift keying (FSK),a technique used in 1200-baud modems. Keying alludes to Morse code—style keying. As shown in Figure 5.10, the FSK scheme transmits sinusoidal tones, with 0 and 1 assigned to different frequencies.

Sinusoidal tones are much better suited to transmission over analog phone lines than are the traditional high and low voltages of digital circuits. The 01 bit patterns create the chirping sound characteristic of modems. (Higher-speed modems are backward compatible with the 1200-baud FSK scheme and begin a transmission with a protocol to determine which speed and protocol should be used.)


The scheme used to translate the audio input into a bit stream is illustrated in Figure 5.11.The analog input is sampled and the resulting stream is sent to two digital filters (such as an FIR filter).


One filter passes frequencies in the range that represents a 0 and rejects the 1-band frequencies, and the other filter does the converse.

The outputs of the filters are sent to detectors, which compute the average value of the signal over the past n samples. When the energy goes above a threshold value, the appropriate bit is detected.


We will send data in units of 8-bit bytes. The transmitting and receiving modems agree in advance on the length of time during which a bit will be transmitted (otherwise known as the baud rate). But the transmitter and receiver are physically separated and therefore are not synchronized in any way.


The receiving modem does not know when the transmitter has started to send a byte. Furthermore, even when the receiver does detect a transmission, the clock rates of the transmitter and receiver may vary somewhat, causing them to fall out of sync. In both cases, we can reduce the chances for error by sending the waveforms for a longer time.


The receiving process is illustrated in Figure 5.12. The receiver will detect the start of a byte by looking for a start bit, which is always 0.


By measuring the length of the start bit, the receiver knows where to look for the start of the first bit. However, since the receiver may have slightly misjudged the start of the bit, it does not immediately try to detect the bit.


The modem will not implement a hardware interface to a telephone line or software for dialing a phone number. We will assume that we have analog audio inputs and outputs for sending and receiving. We will also run at a much slower bit rate than 1200 baud to simplify the implementation.


Next, we will not implement a serial interface to a host, but rather put the transmitter’s message in memory and save the receiver’s result in memory as well. Given those understandings, let’s fill out the requirements table.


2. Specification


The basic classes for the modem are shown in Figure 5.13.


3. System Architecture


The modem consists of one small subsystem (the interrupt handlers for the samples) and two major subsystems (transmitter and receiver).


Two sample interrupt handlers are required, one for input and another for output, but they are very simple. The transmitter is simpler, so let’s consider its software architecture first.


The best way to generate waveforms that retain the proper shape over long intervals is table lookup. Software oscillators can be used to generate periodic signals, but numerical problems limit their accuracy.


Figure 5.14 shows an analog waveform with sample points and the C code for these samples. Table lookup can be combined with interpolation to generate high-resolution waveforms without excessive memory costs, which is more accurate than oscillators because no feedback is involved.


The required number of samples for the modem can be found by experimentation with the analog/digital converter and the sampling code.


The structure of the receiver is considerably more complex. The filters and detectors of Figure 5.12 can be implemented with circular buffers. But that module must feed a state machine that recognizes the bits.


The recognizer state machine must use a timer to determine when to start and stop computing the filter output average based on the starting point of the bit. It must then determine the nature of the bit at the proper interval. It must also detect the start bit and measure it using the counter.


The receiver sample interrupt handler is a natural candidate to double as the receiver timer since the receiver’s time points are relative to samples.


The hardware architecture is relatively simple. In addition to the analog/digital and digital/analog converters, a timer is required. The amount of memory required to implement the algorithms is relatively small.

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