Tag Archives: fpga

CPLD Tutorial: Learn Programmable Logic the Easy Way

via Hack a Day» hardware

739px-Altera_MAX_7128_2500_gate_CPLD

The guys over at hackshed have been busy. [Carl] is making programmable logic design easy with an 8 part CPLD tutorial. Programmable logic devices are one of the most versatile hardware building blocks available to hackers. They also can have a steep learning curve. Cheap Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are plentiful, but can have intricate power requirements. Most modern programmable logic designs are created in a Hardware Description Language (HDL) such as VHDL or Verilog. Now you’ve got a new type of device, a new language, an entirely new programming paradigm, and a complex IDE to learn all at once. It’s no wonder FPGAs have sent more than one beginner running for the hills.

The tutorial cuts the learning curve down in several ways. [Carl] is using Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLD). At the 40,000 foot level, CPLDs and FPGAs do the same thing – they act as re-configurable logic. FPGAs generally do not store their configuration – it has to be loaded from an external FLASH, EEPROM, or connected processor. CPLDs do store their configuration, so they’re ready as soon as they power up. As a general rule, FPGAs contain more configurable logic than CPLDs. This allows for larger designs to be instantiated with FPGAs. Don’t knock CPLDs though. CPLDs have plenty of room for big designs, like generating VGA signals.

[Carl] also is designing with schematic capture in his tutorial. With the schematic capture method, digital logic schematics are drawn just as they would be in Eagle or KiCad. This is generally considered an “old school” method of design capture. A few lines of VHDL or Verilog code can replace some rather complex schematics. [Carl's] simple designs don’t need that sort of power though. Going the schematic capture route eliminates the need to learn VHDL or Verilog.

[Carl's] tutorial starts with installing Altera’s Quartus II software. He then takes the student through the “hardware hello world” – blinking an LED.  By the time the tutorial is done, the user will learn how to create a 4 bit adder and a 4 bit subtractor. With all that under your belt, you’re ready to jump into big designs – like building a retrocomputer.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]


Filed under: FPGA, hardware

A Pick-And-Mix FPGA Retrocomputer

via Hack a Day» hardware

Logo

Cheap FPGA boards are readily available, as are VHDL implementations of classic CPUs like the 6502, 6809, and Z80. Up until now, we haven’t seen anyone take these two parts and combine them into a complete system that turns an FPGA board into a complete 8-bit retrocomputer. Thanks to [Grant]‘s work, it’s now possible to do just that (server on fire, here’s a google cache) with a $30 FPGA board and a handful of parts.

In its full configuration, the Multicomp, as [Grant] calls his project, includes either a 6502, 6809, Z80, or (in the future) a 6800 CPU. Video options include either monochrome RCA, RGB VGA, or RGB via SCART. This, along an SD card interface, a PS2 keyboard, and the ability to connect an external 128kB RAM chip (64k available) means it’s a piece of cake to build a proper and complete portable retrocomputer.

What’s extremely interesting about [Grant]‘s project is the fact the data and address lines are fully exposed on the FPGA board. This means it’s possible to add whatever circuit you’d like to whatever retrocomputer you can imagine; if you want a few NES gamepads, an IDE interface, or you’d like to design your own primitive video card, it’s just a matter of designing a circuit and writing some assembly.

If you’d like to build your own, search “EP2C5T144C8N” on the usual sites, grab a few resistors and connectors, and take a look at [Grant]‘s documentation and upcoming examples.

Via 6502.org forums


Filed under: classic hacks, hardware

Introducing the FleaFPGA Experimenter’s Board

via Hack a Day» hardware

[Valentin] recently tipped us about an FPGA development board he just finished. It is called the FleaFPGA and is aimed to get people interested in the world of Field Programmable Gate Arrays. One of the other reasons that also got [Valentin] to design his own board was that he was frustrated with the existing solutions, them being either too pricey or fairly spare in terms of connectivity.

The main components that you can see in the platform shown above are: a lattice MachX02-7000HE FPGA (6864LUTs), 256Mbits of SDRAM, a USB2.0 host port, a 4096-color VGA connector, a 3.5mm stereo connector, an SD/MMC card slot, a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port, a few push buttons and LEDs. An expansion header is also present in order to connect the FleaFPGA to future shields that will be developed. Unfortunately only the board schematics have been released and [Valentin] is currently aiming for a price of $60 per board for <100 quantities. You’ll be able to see a video of the board in action after the break, in which the FPGA has been loaded with a 68000 software core running a variation of the Amiga Juggler Demo.


Filed under: FPGA, hardware

An Open Source GPU

via Hack a Day» hardware

FPGA

Unless you’re bit-banging a CRT interface or using a bunch of resistors to connect a VGA monitor to your project, odds are you’re using proprietary hardware as a graphics engine. The GPU on the Raspberry Pi is locked up under an NDA, and the dream of an open source graphics processor has yet to be realized. [Frank Bruno] at Silicon Spectrum thinks he has the solution to that: a completely open source GPU implemented on an FPGA.

Right now, [Frank] has a very lightweight 2D and 3D engine well-suited for everything from servers to embedded devices. If their Kickstarter meets its goal, they’ll release their project to the world, giving every developer and hardware hacker out there a complete, fully functional, open source GPU.

Given the difficulties [Bunnie] had finding a GPU that doesn’t require an NDA to develop for, we’re thinking this is an awesome project that gets away from the closed-source binary blobs found on the Raspberry Pi and other ARM dev boards.


Filed under: Crowd Funding, hardware

Building an audio box out of thrown away boards

via Hack a Day» hardware

The last time [Mark] was at the scrap yard, he managed to find the analogue input and output cards of an old Akai DR8 studio hard drive recorder. These cards offered great possibilities (8 ADC inputs, 12 DAC outputs) so he repaired them and made a whole audio system out of them.

The repair only involved changing a couple of low dropout regulators. Afterwards, [Mark] interfaced one of his CPLD development boards so he could produce some sine waves and digitize signals generated from a PC based audio test unit. He then made the frame shown in the picture above and switched to an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA. To complete his system, he designed a small board to attach a VGA screen,  and another to use the nRF24L01 wireless module.

Inside the FPGA, [Mark] used a NIOS II soft core processor to orchestrate the complete system and display a nice user interface. He even made another system with an USB host plug to connect MIDI enabled peripherals, allowing him to wirelessly control his creation.


Filed under: hardware

Homebrew GPS gets ±1 meter resolution with a Raspberry Pi

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GPS

We’ve been following the work of [Andrew Holme] and his homebrew GPS receiver for a while now. A few years ago, [Andrew] built a four-channel GPS receiver from scratch, but apparently that wasn’t enough for him. He expanded his build last year to track up to eight satellites, and this month added a Raspberry Pi for a 12-channel, battery-powered homebrew GPS receiver that has an accuracy of about 3 feet.

The Raspi is attached to an FPGA board that handles the local oscillator, real-time events, and tracks satellites automatically. The Pi handles the difficult but not time-critical math through an SPI interface. Because the Pi is attached to the FPGA through an SPI interface, it can also load up the FPGA with even more custom code, potentially turning this 12-channel receiver into a 16- or 18-channel one.

An LCD display attached to the FPGA board shows the current latitude, longitude, and other miscellaneous data like the number of satellites received. With a large Li-ion battery, the entire system can be powered for about 5 hours; an impressively portable GPS system that rivals the best commercial options out there.


Filed under: hardware, Raspberry Pi

Building new, weird CPUs in FPGAs

via Hack a Day» hardware

The popularization of FPGAs for the hobbyist market means a lot more than custom LED controllers and clones of classic computer systems. FPGAs are also a great tool to experiment with computer architecture, creating new, weird, CPUs that don’t abide by the conventions the industry has used for 40 years. [Victor] is designing a new […]

Lightning Talks

via OSHUG

For the twenty-fourth OSHUG meeting we've decided to try something new and we will be hosting a series of lightning talks. The first five talks have been confirmed and details of these can be found below. Offers of additional talks of between five and ten minutes are invited and proposals can either be submitted in advance via e-mail or made on the night (please arrive early).

Note that this month the meeting takes place on a Wednesday.

FUNcube Satellite

FUNcube-1 is a UK amateur radio educational satellite that is due to be launched later this year, and that uses open source hardware to bring real-time space based experiments to classrooms around the globe. Three members of the on-board computer team will discuss project goals and progress.

64-core Parallella Prototype

Simon Cook will be demonstrating one of only two 64-core Parallella prototypes in the UK.

PCBmodE — a PCB design tool written in Python around JSON, SVG and Inkscape

Saar Drimer will be talking about an open source PCB design tool, that reads shape and placement information stored in JSON files to produce an SVG graphical representation of them. Routing is drawn with Inkscape, then extracted by PCBmodE and stored in an input JSON file that's used for the next board generation. A post-processor 'gerberises' the SVGs into "Extended Gerbers" (RS-274X) for manufacturing.

Interfacing High-performance Low-cost Embedded Systems with FPGAs

Mustafa H. Yuce will be talking about an open source project that interfaces embedded systems including BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi with FPGAs, to enable the implementation of high-speed parallel processing applications such as computer vision.

Flux

Alan Wood will be talking about the recently developed Flux series of boards that are used for motion control applications.

Open Source Junction 4 Report

Paul Tanner will be providing a report from the OSS Watch two day workshop, Open Source Junction 4: Open Source Hardware meets Open Source Software.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt.

Sponsored by:

Stuffing an NES into an FPGA

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megaman_fpga

When the developer of the µTorrent torrent client and the ScummVM  LucasArts adventure game interpreter gets bored, something cool is bound to happen. Luckily for us, [Ludde] was a bit listless over Christmas, and with more time than energy to burn, implemented a Nintendo Entertainment System on an FPGA dev board.

The NES was powered by a Ricoh 2A03 CPU, a chip nearly identical to the 6502 found in the Commodore 64s and Apple IIs of the early 1980s. There are a few differences between the two, though: the NES CPU includes an Audio Processing Unit on the chip and is connected to a very cool Picture Processing unit elsewhere on the NES. [Ludde] put all these chips in his Spartan-6 FPGA with a lot of Verilog code.

The rest of the system – the RAM, display output, and controller input comes from the peripherals attached to the FPGA dev board. [Ludde]‘s specific board didn’t have a good digital to analog converter, so the composite output was traded for a VGA output. It’s not a completely accurate color pallet, but it’s still an amazing piece of work for someone who was simply bored.


Filed under: hardware, nintendo hacks

Breathing life into an old LCD

via Hack a Day» hardware

panel

Out of the depths of a junk drawer, [Alex]‘s friend pulled out an old monochrome LCD display. This is an older low-resolution display from ancient electronics that unfortunately doesn’t have its own controller chip. No worries, though, because with the help of an FPGA [Alex] figured out how to drive this display.

On the back of this display are eight Hitachi LCD drivers, six column shifters and two row shifters, allowing the LCD to display a 256×128 pixel image. Without an LCD controller, though, [Alex] couldn’t just send a static image to the LCD. Instead, he had to continuously refresh the display just like a VGA monitor.

With the help of a 1500-page PDF titled Hitachi LCD Controller/Driver LSI Data Book, [Alex] was able to dump pixels into the ICs on the display with the help of a Papilio One FPGA board. A lot of work just to display the beautiful [Lena], but she wouldn’t have it any other way.


Filed under: hardware

Raspi astrophotography board also does everything else

via Hack a Day» hardware

FPGA

A few years ago the folks at Astro Designs put together a board that took off-the-shelf CCD sensors from point and shoot cameras and turned them into respectable astrophotography sensors. Since then, the world has seen an explosion of Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and other microcontroller platforms, making this the perfect time for a hardware revision.

Their PiXi-200, like their previous AstroCam board, is able to take image sensors out of cameras and turn them into telescope mounted cameras. That’s only one of its tricks, though: The PiXi-200 also has accelerometers, gyroscopes, enough UARTs to do just about anything, a four channel ADC and four channel DAC, two dozen GPIO pins, enough LEDs and buttons for any project, and a 200,000 gate FPGA. All this in a board that plugs directly into the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi just like an Arduino shield. Needless to say, there’s a lot you can do with this board.

Right now, the design is still in the prototype stage, but once everything is finalized the basic model of the board will sell for £30 GBP ($50 USD). The high-end “Model C” board, with all the bells and whistles, will sell for £45 GPB ($70 USD).


Filed under: hardware, Raspberry Pi

Two computer vision builds from Cornell

via Hack a Day» hardware

land

[Bruce Land], professor at Cornell, is a frequent submitter to our tip line. Usually he sends in a few links every semester from undergraduate electronics courses. Now the fall semester is finally over and it’s time to move on to the more ambitious master’s projects.

First up is a head-mounted eye tracker, [Anil Ram Viswanathan] and [Zelan Xiao] put together a lightweight and low-cost eye tracking project that will record where the user is looking.

The eye tracker hardware is made of two cameras mounted on a helmet. The first camera faces forward, looking at the same thing the user is. The second camera is directed towards the user’s eye. A series of algorithms detect the iris of the user’s eye and overlays the expected gaze position on the output of the first camera. Here’s the design report. PDF, natch.

Next up is a face tracking project implemented on an FPGA. This project started out as a software implementation of a face tracking algorithm in MATLAB. [Thu-Thao Nguyen] translated this MATLAB code to Verilog and eventually got her hardware running on an FPGA dev board. Another design report.

Having a face detection and tracking system running on an FPGA is extremely interesting; the FPGA makes face tracking a very low power and hopefully lower-cost solution, allowing it to be used in portable and consumer devices.

You can check out the videos for these projects after the break.


Filed under: hardware, video hacks

Breadboard friendly FPGAs

via Hack a Day» hardware

fpga

Regular Hackaday readers will be familiar with all the cool things you can do with FPGAs; emulating old video game consoles, cracking encryption protocols, and DIY logic analyzers become relatively simple projects with even a modest FPGA dev board on your workbench. Many FPGA boards aren’t geared towards prototyping, though, and breadboard friendly devices are hard to come by. Here’s a pair of breadboardable FPGAs we’ve found while searching for some related hardware over the past few days

First up is the Mercury FPGA Module. Packaged in a DIP-64 format, the Mercury features a Spartan-3A FPGA with the equivalent of 200k logic gates. Elsewhere on the board is 512kB of RAM and 128kB of Flash storage. There are enough GPIO pins for nearly any project, but sadly only a 10-bit ADC – the same resolution you’d find in an AVR or PIC ‘micro.

Of course the Mercury isn’t the only breadboard-friendly FPGA dev board out there. There’s also the slightly more capable XuLA2 board powered by a Spartan-6 with 32 MB of RAM, 1MB of Flash. Unlike the Mercury, the XuLA2 can also fit in one of those ‘half-sized’ solderless breadboards.

Yes, it’s a different form factor than the commonly recommended Papilio One or the DE0. If you can suggest any other ‘beginners’ (i.e. doesn’t cost an arm and a leg) FPGA boards, leave a note in the comments and we’ll summarize them in another post.


Filed under: hardware

Discrete FPGA will probably win the 7400 logic competition

via Hack a Day » hardware

For this year’s 7400 logic competition, [Nick] decided to build an FPGA out of logic chips.

Perhaps a short explanation is in order to fully appreciate [Nick]‘s work. The basic component of an FPGA is a slice, or cell, that performs boolean operations on its input and sends the result on its output. The core of these slices is a lookup table – basically a truth table that stores the result of every possible input combination.

One very easy way to implement a lookup table is to use a RAM or EEPROM chip. By tying the address lines of an EEPROM to the input and the data lines to the output, it’s possible to create a single slice of an FPGA very easily.

Unfortunately for [Nick], 74-series memories have long been out of production. There is another option open, though: shift registers. A shift register is basically an 8-bit memory chip with parallel inputs, so combining a shift register with an 8-input multiplexer is a very simple way to implement a 3-input, 1-output FPGA slice.

After figuring out how to tie these slices to bus lines, [Nick] needed a way to program them. Verilog or VHDL would border on insanity, so he wrote his own hardware description language. It’s certainly not as powerful or capable as the mainstream solutions to programming an FPGA, but it’s more than enough.

In the video after the break, you can see [Nick]‘s overview of his very large 8-slice FPGA while he runs a combination lock and PWM program. All the code, schematics, and board layout are up on [Nick]‘s git if you’d like to build your own.


Filed under: hardware

Bora board teaches binary hardware

via Hack a Day » hardware

If you’re just starting out in your quest to build really cool electronic devices, you’ll find a ton of options ready for the beginner. The Arduino makes toggling pins dead simple, and the Raspi brings the wonders of blinking a LED from the command line down from the gods and into the hands of the common man. These are all software platforms, though, and if you want to learn digital logic with hardware the best option is still a drawer full of 7400-series logic chips.

[Colin O'Flynn] hopes to change this with a beginners board for digital logic hardware design. It’s called the BORA, or Binary explORer boArd, and brings digital logic to a convenient package that is far less frustrating than a breadboard full of logic chips.

The BORA is based around a CPLD – a cousin of the FPGA-powered devices we see from time to time – that allows any student of digital logic to program the device and fill macrocells with NANDs, NORs, and ANDs.

The Xilinx device used in the BORA has about 1600 gates that can be programmed; more than enough to complete all the projects in the online lectures [Colin] has put together. You can check out the documentation for the BORA over on the official site, and the demo video after the break.


Filed under: hardware, kickstarter