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FPGA – over towards the hardware side of things

It’s a Field Programmable Gate Array. Dave Jones explains what it is at his EEVblog #496. If you are into the design of (extremely, extraordinarily) complex digital circuits, the FPGA is your prototyping solution.

The device is an array of thousands of configurable logic blocks embedded in a configurable wiring grid attached to configurable I/O blocks attached to pins on the chip. The program that configures the logic blocks, the wiring connections, and the I/O setup is in a separate memory chip. On every power-up, the FPGS has to read the memory and configure all its parts so bootup can be a bit slow. Creating the program and getting it debugged and compiled into the proper instructions can be a very tedious and complicated task of its own.

It appears that some FPGA’s are being provided with embedded processing blocks and other stuff to handle common tasks. That creates options and that means even more complexity.

The advantage of an FPGA over a microcontroller is that it is basically dedicated digital logic hardware (after programming) which means it can handle inputs in parallel very fast. The microcontroller handles things one instruction at a time which is simpler to manage but slower.

the EEVblog has the “V” for video. Dave has many good ones also posted to YouTube that can help get a handle on a number of things EE.

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