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eCos Operating System

In this article, you will learn about the eCos operating system with its history, design, and features.

What is the eCos operating system?

eCos Operating System

The Embedded Configurable Operating System (eCos) is an RTOS that is built primarily for embedded systems and applications that require just one process with several threads. It is intended to adapt to specific application runtime performance and hardware constraints. It is developed using the programming languages C and C++, and it contains POSIX and The Real-time Operating System Nucleus (TRON) variant µITRON compatibility layers and application programming interfaces. All embedded security standards are met by eCos, which is supported by popular SSL/TLS libraries like wolfSSL.

History of eCos Operating System

eCos operating system was created in 1997 by Cygnus Solutions, which Red Hat eventually acquired. In early 2002, Red Hat stopped the development of eCos and fired off the project's team. Many laid-off employees continued to work on eCosOS, and some created their firms to provide software services. Red Hat decided to transfer the eCos copyrights to the Free Software Foundation in October 2005 after the eCos developers requested it in January 2004. The process was ultimately finished in May 2008.

Design of the eCos Operating System

eCos operating system was designed for real-time applications or for devices with memory capacities of a few tens to several hundred kilobytes. eCos OS may also operate on various other hardware platforms, including ARM, IA-32, Motorola 68000, CalmRISC, FR-V, Hitachi H8, NEC V850, Nios II, Matsushita AM3x, MIPS, PowerPC, SPARC, and SuperH.

The eCos operating system contains RedBoot, which is an open-source program that provides bootstrap firmware for embedded devices by utilizing the eCos hardware abstraction layer.

Non-free versions of eCos Operating System

The eCosPro RTOS is a commercial extension of the eCos operating system created by eCosCentric that incorporates proprietary software components. It is marketed as a "stable, completely tested, certified, and supported version" with additional features that are not accessible as free software. eCosCentric announced on Pi Day 2017 that they had adapted eCosPro to all Raspberry Pi models, with demos at the Embedded World trade exhibition in Nuremberg (Germany) and free releases to come.

Features of the eCos Operating System

There are various features of the eCos Operating System. Some features of the eCos operating system are as follows:

Free and Open-Source

eCos is a free and open-source operating system with a license that allows unrestricted access to its source code while preserving the intellectual property rights of middleware and embedded programs. Engineers have complete control, flexibility, and comprehension over all parts of their embedded design. Commercial liberties include permanent access and rights to the codebase, no vendor lock-in, no limits on your intellectual property, and no royalty or license costs. It is released under a variant of the well-known GPL license that supports linking non-GPL-licensed applications with eCos. It implies that your program, system improvements, and any third-party middleware are not needed to be licensed under the GPL.


Many embedded applications' tools and runtime features are included in the standard eCos release, including a priority-based real-time scheduler and synchronization primitives, language support libraries, standards-based APIs file systems, device drivers, networking, communications, and debugging support. The open-source GNU compiler toolset and an eCos setup tool with a graphical user interface are also provided.


A well-defined hardware abstraction layer (HAL) built on the C programming language and strong integration with the GNU C/C++ toolset provides eCos with its simple design and platform portability. As a result, eCos OS has been ported to almost all current 32-bit architectures. Several of them include ARM, Coldfire/68K, Hitachi SH2/3/4, Nios, PowerPC, Intel x 86, MIPS/microMIPS, and SPARC.

The eCos HAL is also the foundation for the RedBoot bootloader and debugs agent, which enables the construction of an RTOS port, bootstrap, and software debug solution in a single step.


eCos implements a traditional multi-threaded architecture with a comprehensive set of synchronization primitives since it was created from the bottom up for deeply embedded real-time applications. It provides predictable reaction times, short interrupt latency, and low overhead context transitions.

Flexibility and Efficiency

The "Embedded Configurable Operating System" is known as eCos. The eCos system may expand from extremely tiny, memory-constrained SOC-type devices to more complicated systems requiring higher levels of capability due to the configurable technology at its core.

Developers may provide the necessary features and characteristics of the operating system through the configuration system, resulting in an application-specific version that is perfectly tailored to the needs of a certain device. It addresses the challenge of strict RAM/ROM budgets and performance requirements while achieving the lowest resource footprints with maximum functionality and efficiency.

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