I'm just starting into FPGA's, and have access to a Spartan-3 Starter board. Even though it dates back to 2004 and is no longer supported by Xilinx, I expect I should be able to at least learn some fundamentals of VHDL, or Verilog HDL, and a bit more, like just to get a simple 4-digit hex up/down counter, controlled by switches. My lap top doesn't have a parallel port to comunicate with it. I've also downloaded Xilinx's WebPack v 13.2, and installed it, but because of obsolence, I don't see this kit listed in the platform menu in the project setup. What could suggest that I read to quickly get going with this toy, and get a good idea of the big picture? Digital logic circuits, C programming, DSPs, etc. are not new to me, but FPGAs are.
Hi Aleks, I started with pretty much the same kit a few years back.
Take a look at digilentinc.com, they have a couple of very inexpensive options for USB programmers. One is compatible with the Xilinx official USB programmer, and the other is proprietary to Digilent Inc, which I was originally avoiding because it lacked Linux support, but they have recently included Linux support, so there is no need for a parallel port regardless of which OS you are on! Before the cheap USB ones were available I had to use an expresscard parallel port for my old laptop, sadly.
As for compatibility with ISE 13, I don't believe you are going to have a problem getting the Spartan 3 to work, it is not yet phased out. On the other hand, I designed a board with a Virtex 2 on it about two years ago only to find that the family got dropped from ISE from 11 on, and I had to go back to ISE 10 to program it. Basically ISE/webpack does not include "support" for specific dev boards, but rather for the actual chip that is on that board. Depending where you got the board from, it will be either XC3S200 or XC3S1000 in a
256 pin package. So when you create your project, you can select that from the Spartan 3 family. Then, you will need to add your pin assignments to a .ucf (user constraints file) which will be included in your project. You can find out what the correct pin assignments are for the on board clock, each LED, switch, etc. in the user manual for the starter kit.
Also, please be sure to learn how to write testbenches and simulate your designs before downloading them to an FPGA. It will save you a lot of headaches to see that your design is working right first!
Hi Aleks, The platform selection menu is new in ISE 13.x. But like before you can select the desiret target device manually. Just look in the S3-Starter board documentation for details about FPGA type, case and speed grade.