In a variety of emerging networked computing system domains over the years, there have been bursts of activity on new medium access control (MAC) protocols, as new communication transceiver technologies with greater data-movement performance or lower power dissipation have been introduced. To enable implementations flexible to evolving standards and improving application-domain insight, such MAC protocols are typically initially implemented in software, and interface between applications or system software, typically executing on an embedded processor or microcontroller, and the evolving radio transceiver hardware. Many challenges exist in implementing MAC protocols across evolving or competing transceiver hardware implementations and processor architectures. Some of these challenges are peculiar to the requirements of MAC protocols, and others are a result of the plethora of system and processor architectures in the embedded systems domain. This article studies the challenges facing software implementations of MAC protocols running on embedded microcontrollers, and interfacing with radio transceiver hardware. Experience with an implementation of the IEEE 802.15.4 MAC across three hardware platforms with different processor, system, and systems software architectures is presented, focusing on implementation approach and interfaces. Pitfalls are pointed out, and guidelines are provided for ensuring that new MAC implementations are easily portable across processor architectures and transceiver hardware. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.