Getting Started With The Altera FPGA

Getting Started With The Altera FPGA

by Johnny S

FPGA stands for Field-Programmable Gate Array. It is an integrated circuit which is used for the purpose of the configuration by a consumer or a designer. As it can be done after the process of manufacturing, the term “Field Programmable” is used. The configuration of an FPGA is usually specified by using a hardware description language which is also known as an HDL. The use of HDL is also common in ASIC circuits (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit). The past practice was the use of circuit diagrams for the purpose of specifying the configuration, but it has become highly rare now because of the fact that now the electronic design automation tools are more common these days. The modern-day FPGA’s consist of a wide array of programmable logic blocks as well as a hierarchy of interconnects which are reconfigurable. These interconnect allow the blocks to be wired together in a fashion which is similar to the logic gates of idiosyncratic configurations. The use of logic blocks can be rendered for the purpose of performing highly complex tasks such as combinational functions. On the other hand, it can also be sued for the purpose of dealing with highly simple tasks such as simple logic gates such as AND, OR or NOT gates. In a high majority of FPGA’s, the logic blocks also include various memory elements which may be highly simple or more complex in the form of complete blocks of memory. One of the very best features are the ability of the users to reprogram them due to which it can be made in a way which is better suited to meet the prerequisites of the task at hand. This can be done as a result of using it along with a computer or software.

Applications

The applications are diverse in nature and have monumental implications in a wide range of different fields. The biggest source of utility here in the case of FPGA is that there is an option for the users to modify the circuit. The term field programmable is used in the name due to this very reason. Due to this, the FPGA has become available to be used in a variety of fields which can be of different nature. Another issue of gargantuan importance here, in this case, is that one does not need to be a certified professional in order to make the desired changes to the platform. These changes can be made by anyone who is capable of using a computer. All you need to do is to get your hands-on FPGA and a decent computer. Also, due to the nature of the task, it is better to have a big display screen. Next, the process of selection of an appropriate OS is needed. For this purpose, you need to factor in various aspects such as the compatibility of the desired OS with the PC you are using. In this case, it is also advisable to render the use of a virtual machine which is also known as a VM. The use of a VM here, in this case, can prove to be of great benefit and can result in valuable time being saved. Next comes the selection of a suitable FPGA vendor. The selection of an FPGA vendor is of crucial importance as it can make or break the chain of links in this entire process. The selection of a wrong vendor can result in huge losses being incurred by the company and it can also mean the failure of the entire process. The failure can be linked to this mistake directly or indirectly. Hence, adequate importance needs to be dedicated to this area. Once the right FPGA vendor has been selected, the next step is to pick out a development board which is suitable for the process at hand. The selection of a suitable development board can prove to work wonders for the process at hand and can act as a catalyst to the efforts being made. However, one important consideration which needs to be made here, in this case, is that the processor being used here, in this case, is an embedded processor. If the processor is not an embedded processor, chances are that the FPGA will be affected as a result in a highly adverse manner. The use of an embedded processor is needed here in this case for the purpose of ensuring a smooth flow of the process taking place at hand. The next step here, in this case, is to download and launch the FPGA design software. There are various different options available here in this case and any one of them can be chosen for this purpose. However, the user must ensure that there is an availability of the latest service packs which come along the software. In the absence of these service packs, the process becomes more tedious and may even fail. Hence, it is important to ensure that there are service packs along with the software which is being downloaded for the purpose of modifying. The next step is to choose an appropriate logic simulator. This is needed for the purpose of facilitating the process of modification. For the same purpose, a synthesis tool is also needed. Once all these things are gathered, next comes the use of C programming. For the purpose of modification of the FPGA, it is essential to know the basics of C programming. If you are not aware of this, you can always learn it as it is an easy language to learn and can prove to be helpful for you not only here in this case but also in various other ventures.

Altera FPGA

Altera FPGA is an American corporation which is working as a manufacturer of programmable logic devices as well as FPGA’s. On 1 June 2015, it was acquired by Intel for a value of $16.7 billion. The Startix series is the most popular as well as a high performing product of the company. There are roughly 1.1 million logic elements present there and has a total ability of 1,840 GMAC’s of signal processing performance. These are high-end products and are usually consumed by businesses and other professionals who have a need for such high-performance FPGA’s. Apart from this, there are also those which belong to the Cyclone series. These are the lowest cost which are designed for the needs of domestic users and SME’s who may find a use for them. The costs are the lowest in the market when it comes to major competitors. The low price does not mean low quality here in this case and this has transceivers which have a speed up to 5 Gbits/s. In between these two product lines lies the Arria series FPGA’s. These are famed for their balance of performance and are balanced in terms of their costs as well. These are designed for the specific segments of the market which have a need for these types, which is why it is also one of the most popular product lines of the company. They are capable of providing speeds which are up to 10 Gbits/s.

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