Seeking the Light – A question from a recent TDD training attendee

Here is a good question, and my reply, from a recent attendee of my Test-Driven Development for Embedded C training.

Hi James,

As I work more with TDD, one of the concepts I am still struggling to grasp is how to test “leaf” components that touch real hardware. For example, I am trying to write a UART driver. How do I test that using TDD? It seems like to develop/write the tests, I will need to write a fake UART driver that doesn’t touch any hardware. Let’s say I do that. Now I have a really nice TDD test suite for UART drivers. However, I still need to write a real UART driver…and I can’t even run the TDD tests I created for it on the hardware. What value am I getting from taking the TDD approach here?

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Can TDD Help Reduce Integration Time?

A recent TDD for Embedded C attendee asks me “TDD does not help reduce the time I spend in the lab during system integration testing”

(This is asked in the context of embedded development. But the answer is half applicable to any development where there is integration.)

TDD should definitely help reduce the time you spend in integration. How does it do that? It helps you eliminate the non-integration problems before you get to the integration lab. An honest appraisal of what you do in integration may reveal that during integration you are finding problems you could have discovered before integration. It would help reduced integration time if you find fewer problems during integration. Don’t you think?

This cause/effect diagram helps to visualize the relationship of TDD to time spend in integration.

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TDD and the Real-World

One of the attendees of my training objected to TDD stating “TDD does not resolve the real-world (temperature, pressure, timing, noisy signals, etc.) issues that my project is encountering.”

You are right! I’ll add TDD does not resolve anything. TDD is not a magic incantation that solves any problem the embedded developer may encounter. From discussions at your company, I think you realize this. But it does not change the fact that you have to spend a lot of time chasing these kinds of problems. So let’s see how TDD can support this activity.
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