Noobie question about FPGAs

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by jean28, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. jean28

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2012
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    Good day, everyone!

    I am a complete noob in FPGAs, but I need to use one this semester in a Digital Design course. I am considering one of these two, but I'm not sure which. I want to connect the FPGA to a LED display, and program a simple Pong game in it. Here are the two models:

    http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?NavPath=2,400,799&Prod=S3BOARD

    http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?NavPath=2,400,790&Prod=BASYS2

    Basically what I want is to get an FPGA that is programmable in Verilog, and that is able to detect an input from push buttons (although I am sure that this is perfectly common in FPGAs, but since my knowledge in them is so limited, I am not sure if it is a common feature or not).

    Is this project capable in an FPGA? Are both good enough for this specific project? And also, if there is a specific book or reference for me to learn more about FPGAs, it would be greatly appreciated :D.

    Thank you,
     
  2. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    3,531
    675
    Yes, you are right, reading a push button with a FPGA is a common occurrence.

    At a glance, it looks like only the first board may be programmed over USB, where the other kit seems to only come with a parallel JTAG programmer.

    The first one has a note about requiring a Digilent software (ADEPT) to work, which may, or may not matter to you.
     
  3. jean28

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2012
    76
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    Yeah, I thought it probably was very common, just like in MCU's.

    Is there any specific FPGA that is very popular and has tons of support online? The Spartan-3 seems pretty popular in many places. Am I right on this?
     
  4. Shagas

    Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
    I'm currently learning to program FPGA's in Verilog and VHDL and I'm using this dev kit.
    It's probably more expensive than the rest but it's pretty easy to use and there are quite a few tutorials on the official website and a forum , so you might want to take a look at it.
    Also , simple pong might not be very simple on an fpga :)
     
  5. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    3,531
    675
    Yes, many colleges and universities use some variant of the Spartan 3 family of FPGAs. The one I see most is the Spartan 3E Starter Board; I have one and like it a lot. The Virtex line is popular in professional circles and seem to have much more expensive dev boards.

    Altera has some nice, low-cost FPGAs in the Cyclone family, so a dev board will generally be cheaper, though Xilinx is the largest FPGA company and learning using a Xilinx FPGA is more likely to have support.

    Digilent does a good job of supporting their products and I've always found some sort of help/guide/appnote from them that is relevant when needed.

    Pong is a more advanced project, but it's a good direction to aim for. There are many projects people have done to implement Pong in a FPGA.
     
  6. jean28

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2012
    76
    0
    Ok, if pong is very hard, then how about a small street light system with small weight sensors where whenever they detect weight from a toy car, the street lights change accordingly?
     
  7. jean28

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2012
    76
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    And by street lights, I mean of course small LEDs or something similar.
     
  8. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
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    675
    Without having built this myself, FPGA4Fun has a pong game that doesn't look hard at all.

    We don't know where you are in your understanding of digital logic and FPGAs, do is a little difficult to suggest something that will help you learn. The FPGA4Fun website is a nice resource, though a little sparse...
     
  9. Brian Griffin

    Member

    May 17, 2013
    40
    12
    If you are in college, you can play around with the Digilent FPGA boards if they have these. They have an abundant amount of ports to interface.

    And of course, start with a blinking LED, and then a simple PWM. :)
     
  10. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
    2,375
    998
    Beware the note that Spartan 3 is no longer supported by Xilinx software. I'll need to check to see if you can download older tools from Xilinx which support it. I have a Spartan 3 dev board too, and use a webpack I downloaded years back. I will check to see if you can still get that old revision.
     
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