Firmware is a little piece of software that runs the hardware and does what the manufacturer intended. It consists of programs written by developers to manage hardware devices.
Without Firmware, most of the electronic gadgets we use every day would not be able to work. For example, did you know that a traffic light has Firmware? Yes, there is, and the Firmware tells you to change the lights regularly.
Without the built-in software, the traffic light would be nothing more than a “stupid” post, set up on the side of the road, that would only look boring.
For less sophisticated hardware devices such as traffic lights, washing machines, card machines, surveillance cameras, televisions, etc., the Firmware is the set of software that they contain and acts as a control system, controlling everything related to the operation of this device.
To clarify things further, let’s take another example: a computer motherboard without Firmware cannot detect a hard drive or video card on your computer. If their drives didn’t have built-in Firmware, they wouldn’t know how fast they spin or when they stop. A wireless card cannot use a specific radiofrequency.
For more complex hardware like tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches, etc., the Firmware is an intermediary between the hardware and the operating system.
The Firmware contains only the instructions necessary to work with the hardware with the operating system installed on the device on these devices.
For example, on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, the smartphone software allows the hardware to properly communicate with the Android operating system and do what the user requests.
Firmware is stored on non-volatile memory devices such as ROM, EPROM, EEPROM, and Flash memory. In the past, changing a device’s Firmware was rarely or never done during its useful life, but today it is a standard procedure; some firmware memory devices are permanently installed and cannot be changed after production.
The most common reasons for updating the Firmware include correcting software errors or adding features to the device. This requires either physically replacing the ROM or reprogramming the EPROM or flash memory using a particular procedure.
Firmware, such as a computer’s BIOS, can contain only the essential functions and provide services only to higher-level software. As a built-in system program, Firmware may be the only program that will run on the system and provide all its functions.
Table of Contents
- History of Firmware
- Where is the Firmware stored?
- What kind of Firmware is there?
- Can the Firmware be updated?
History of Firmware†
Ascher Opler coined the term “firmware” in a 1967 article, Datamation. Specialization or modification of instructions that could be performed by the central processing unit (CPU).
As originally used, the Firmware conflicted with the hardware (the processor itself) and software (the usual instructions that run on the processor).
These are not the CPU processor instructions, but the lower-level microcode involved in implementing machine instructions. It existed at the border between hardware and software; hence the name “firmware”.
Over time, common use has extended the word “firmware” to any computer program closely related to hardware, including hardware instructions from the processor to BIOS, controller, or control systems for simple devices, electronic devices such as microwave ovens, remote controls or computer peripherals.
Where is the Firmware stored?
Firmware is commonly stored in particular types of memory, called flash ROMs. ROM stands for read-only memory, and this type of memory only needs to be written once, usually by the manufacturer of the hardware we use.
A ROM is required for any electronic device because it has to store data continuously, even when the device is turned off or in the event of a power failure. You cannot produce a hardware device that forgets its Firmware because it would stop working after removing the power.
But again, flash ROM is designed to be rewritten, because although the hardware manufacturer initially wrote it, it can be rewritten later. Of course, you can add new Firmware to the hardware device.
However, you can only do this with a suitable firmware update tool specially designed to work with this hardware device.
What kind of Firmware is there?
There are as many firmware variants as there are hardware devices. On computer motherboards there is the Firmware (called BIOS or UEFI), there is the Firmware on hard drives, SSDs, CD / DVD / Blu-Ray drives, there is the Firmware on the network card routers, access points, extenders out of range, there is even and gaming software for mouse and keyboard. These are just a few examples related to computers.
You have to keep in mind that Firmware does something useful like a TV, washing machine, ATM, or even in your car on most devices.
Can the Firmware be updated?
Many producers release regular updates for the Firmware that is on their hardware devices. They also provide the software tools needed to write new Firmware to these devices. However, each manufacturer can choose to release new Firmware for a particular device.
For example, most computer component manufacturers develop and supply their customers with the latest Firmware and appropriate firmware update programs for at least a few years after the device is released.
For example, the motherboard manufacturer may release new firmware updates when you want to include new features, support new processors or RAM, or when you want to fix specific issues with your hardware.
Any manufacturer can choose to send new Firmware for their devices: the router can receive firmware updates that improve its stability, a DVD burner can learn to burn new types of discs, etc.
As to where to get the new Firmware, it depends on the manufacturer of your hardware device. You can usually find new Firmware (if available) on your device’s support site. Find the download page, download your new Firmware, and follow the device manufacturer’s update documentation.
Writing new Firmware to a device is a dangerous task and, if not done correctly, can render the device unusable. Forever! Like a brick! This is why some people tell you that they have locked the device. It just broke your Firmware and can no longer work as expected.
Problem with tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and Android “firmware”.
Android smartphones and mobile devices have taken the world by storm, and many users want to update their device firmware, install custom ROMs and more.
The problem is, most people misuse the term firmware to refer to smartphones and other mobile devices. Therefore, we want to explain the technical characteristics of the Firmware related to smartphones and mobile devices to you to do things right:
The term firmware, especially for Android devices, has been mistakenly extended in popular culture to include all software on those devices. Android “Firmware” now means both the operating system and Android Firmware.
You will also find the term Custom ROM. In this case, ROM does not mean read-only memory in which the Firmware is stored in the smartphone’s hardware.
Custom ROM means a custom operating intricate image that includes the Firmware needed to run the smartphone. So in the ROM of a smartphone, you get two things: the Firmware, which is the same as in the definition we shared above, and the operating system on top of the Firmware.
When you buy a new tablet or smartphone, it comes with “standard ROM” or “standard firmware”. This applies to the preinstalled Firmware and operating system.
The “standard ROM” is provided by the manufacturer of the smartphone (if you bought it unlocked) or by the mobile operator to which you subscribed (if you purchased a locked smartphone).
The mobile operator uses the “standard ROM” offered by the manufacturer of your smartphone and modifies it according to your interests, resulting in a new “standard ROM” found only on smartphones sold by the mobile operator. Cellphone. Cellphone.
The same goes for smart TVs, tablets and other Android mobile devices.
And now you know what Firmware is, what it does and where it is. Was our explanation good enough, and do you understand this concept? Are you still confused by Android “firmware”? Please feel free to use the comment form below and let us know.