FPGA for hobbyist ??

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Just wondering, does hobbyist with fund less than USD200/month could
afford playing with FPGA ?

Is there any link that I can read about it ? (since looks like every
FPGA developer is belonging in big company and universities).

I want to know what kind of tools that I need (like the compiler,
development board, debugger, etc).

Thus, is there any link to cheap version of it :p
(I've read in Altera's page, nothing is below USD200)

Thank you

Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??
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There is a starting point:


ISE WebPack is free.


Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??

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One of Altera's HDL toolchain is free, as well.

There's also Icarus Verilog, a part of the GPL'd gEDA toolset.

You don't need to program real FPGAs to learn VHDL or Verilog and use
the toolset simulators -- although eventually you'll want to.

In addition to the links above, look at http://www.fpga4fun.com /

Rich Webb   Norfolk, VA

Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??

Thank you so much for the advise.

I'm a bit crazy about building my own FPGA board.
Sounds cool, though I just want it to blink some LEDs :p

BTW, how can I connect the FPGA with external device (LEDs) ?

I have read in www.fpga4fun.com, all I need is to put JTAG pin to
external header (to Altera's ByteBlaster or other JTAG), put
configurator pin to EEPROM, put clock generator in global_clk line, and
the rest is my flavor.

Is it correct or do I miss something ? Is there any good reading about
how to interface FPGA with external device ?

Most of books/websites that I've read just teaching VHDL/Verilog only.

Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??
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Check out the app note locatations on both Xilinx and Altera sites. Be
prepared for a lot of reading though. Also, consider using a CPLD (eg.
coolrunner) instead of an FPGA. The CPLD has onboard memory, so you
don't have to worry about external flash memory hookup. They are a
little easier to use as well, and you can program them in VHDL & Verilog.

Xilinx :

Altera : http://www.altera.com/support/examples/exm-index.html

Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??

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Not that hard. Check out http://www.web-tronics.com/pc162.html or
http://www.web-tronics.com/scecibubl.html for some easy to use proto
boards for surface mount devices (gull wing, of course, not BGA).

Add a chunk of perf board to hold a power connector and JTAG header and
you've got a custom dev board.

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The best references are the device and family datasheets. In many cases
you MUST read the family datasheets for the real info; the individual
device sheets don't necessarily reprise all of the family info.

The more complex devices are evolving to service more precise I/O specs
than in the good ol' "LS TTL" days. Depending on the device, you may be
able to chose I/O voltage, slew rate, impedence, LVDS pairs, much more.

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Take a look at "The Design Warrior's Guide to FPGAs" ISBN 0-7506-7604-3.

Rich Webb   Norfolk, VA

Re: FPGA for hobbyist ??
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    ... try this: www.gaisler.com. Regards
                                Adam Przybyla

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