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Cheapest way to learning/experimenting FPGA

Discussion in 'Hobby Electronics' started by Guest, Aug 18, 2004.

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  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I'm new to FPGA and would like to learn how to program/use FPGA in cost
    effective way.
    What would be your recommendation ?
  2. Hi Fpga

    Look at the xilinx web site at they have a number of
    development boards for CPLD and FPGA's plus you can download the software
    for their development and simulation for free. I have bought the Coolrunner
    development board and found it quite useful for relearning VHDL.

  3. Hi 7

    I thought Xilinx did their development software for Linux and Unix systems?
    check this link

  4. Jason Tang

    Jason Tang Guest

    The ISE Foundation and ISE BaseX versions run under Linux. However,
    they are not free ($650 - $2500). And for that price, you may want to
    evalute both Xilinx ISE and Altera's Quartus (which also runs under
    Linux) before deciding which is best for you.

    The FREE ISE WebPack only runs under Windows.

    I do, however, remember hearing of some people having success running
    earlier ISE WebPack versions under WINE in Linux. That may be a
    possible alternative.

  5. Alex Gibson

    Alex Gibson Guest

    Look in comp.arch.fpga the thread
    Announcing JOLT - Yet Another Xilinx Programming Tool

    there is now a tool for programming fpgas from
    linux without having to run wine.
    Supposedly works fine with the new xilinx spartan3 starter kit.

    Will still have to run wine for design and implementing in webpack.

    For those that don't know

    fpga - field programmable gate array
    (large programmable logic chip)
    A programmable logic chip in a high density of gates. There are a variety
    of FPGA architectures including programmable logic blocks, programmable
    interconnects and switches between the blocks.


    High density PLD containing small logic cells interconnected through a
    distributed array of programmable switches. This type of architecture
    produces statistically varying results in performance and functional
    capacity, but offers high register counts. Programmability typically is via
    volatile SRAM or one-time-programmable antifuses.

    cpld - complex programmable logic device
    CPLDs are a class of programmable logic devices. They feature the speed,
    design simplicity, and predictability of PALs. Conceptually, they consist of
    PAL-like function blocks that can be interconnected through a switch matrix.

    pal - programmable array logic

    Wine - windows gui emulator for linux
    latest versions can run most of the xilinx webpack.

    Xilinx webpack - free cpld / pfga software that runs on windows.
    nonfree versions run on windows , linux , solaris.

    Altera also have a free version of their software Quartus II web edition

    Alex Gibson
  6. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The book "Digital Design, Principles and Practices" by John F Wakerly
    (Prentice Hall) came as a package with the Xilinx "Foundation Series"
    student edition for something round the $100 mark. I don't know
    anything about current availability or price of this bundle but it was
    pretty good value at one stage. The license requires online registration
    and will expire after some time (12 months I think but don't quote me)
    also the student edition is a bit crippled, from memory there is a limit
    on the gate count. The book comes with no hardware, just software but
    the software knows how to drive a JTAG off your PC parallel port which
    you can build yourself.

    UTS has a course where the students built up a kit that connected
    to the PC parallel port and it had a small 3.3v FPGA chip with some
    buffers to implement a simple JTAG. I don't know if the circuit
    diagram is available but maybe a bit of research or some other poster
    might be able to point you at suitable hardware.

    No linux support in the edition I looked at -- I ran it under Win-98
    and it worked pretty smoothly.

    It gives you enough to learn about and play with but you would need
    something else for any real project.

    - Tel

  7. Try the following link

  8. Phil

    Phil Guest

  9. dh

    dh Guest

    Go to and look at the $50 Pluto board. That's
    probably the very cheapest way to get into using a real FPGA (not
    CPLD). There are also many nice little projects on the site that you
    can use with the board. Serial, LCD, encoders, video signal, Ethernet,
    digital oscilloscope (with addition of simple A/D board) etc.

    The Dragon PCI board also appears pretty feature-packed and easy to
    interface to, compared to a lot of other PCI FPGA board vendors I
    could name who use really obscure connectors so they can sell you
    their own expansion modules.
  10. Alex Gibson

    Alex Gibson Guest

    No its the free versions of their software that can be
    downloaded from their websites after you have registered with them.

    Also can order a cd from xilinx or one of their local distributors.

    No it doesn't need a web connection to run.

  11. Alex Gibson

    Alex Gibson Guest

    Only use the software that comes with the book if your running
    windows 98 (equivalent to ise4.1 or 4.2).

    It doesn't work with windows 2000 or windows xp.
    Use the latest webpack, request/order a cd from xilinx or their local
    In Australia

    There is no licnese fee for the software with the book and it doesn't
    run out. Neither does the starter license for modelsim xe you can get for
    free from xilinx.
    For details see

    On the board for the subject is a cpld xilinx xc9572xl
    as well as pic 16f877 and a pic12f675 as a programmable oscillator
    leds, seven segment displays,rotary encoder,max232, speaker and a 16x2 lcd.
    No the circuit diagrams aren't available.

    One that is, is
    only thing with this one is it is very easy to blow the cpld .
    Easier to use a two pin crystal.
    Should be able to use a xc9572 in this board as well.
    Would recommend putting a diode bridge
    and regulator on the circuit as well.

    The xc9572xl's are quite cheap is you buy a few, approx around US$2 each.

    xc9572 / xc9536 are 5V and more expensive
    xc9572xl / xc9536xl are 3V3 and a bit cheaper

    Need to make a simple parallel port to jtag cable
    to program the devices.

    Other sites are made old style arcade games in fpga's

    Xilinx sell a coolrunner2 cpld starter kit for US$50 + p&h
    or spartan3 starter kit (200k gate fpga) for US$99 + p&h

    These are made for xilinx by

    Alex Gibson
  12. Guest

    Guest Guest

    " " it is so cool!... It must be seen !...
    How one can resist not to order few boards from this site?

    But unfortunatelly both the Dragon board and Flashy are out of stock.
    Will they appear on the shop again? (If yes, when ? How much they cost?)
    Would it be possible to connect Flashy to Dragon for faster data transfer
    via PCI (or USB) from FIFO to PC?
    How can the FIFO size be extpanded to 4K samples?
  13. Chris S.

    Chris S. Guest

    I'm not personally into fpga's, but someone once recommended to me as a decent resource for open source hardware.
  14. en

    en Guest

    How about Xess ?

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