Why bother?

Discussion in 'Homework Help' started by silvrstring, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. silvrstring

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 27, 2008
    159
    0
    Hey everybody,

    I'm in a Digital Circuits course right now, and I'm a bit confused as to where I should be applying my efforts.

    We have been going over logic gates, adder/subtractors, comparators, encoders/decoders, multiplexers/demultiplexers, and we'll be going over flip-flops soon. At the same time, we are getting into FPGAs and PLDs and VHDL.

    It seems to me that if technology is getting better and better, ASICs, gate chips, EPROMs, and whatever else logic chips, will become obsolete; FPGAs, EEPROMS, and other programmable logic devices should be able to replace the older "set" components. Then all that will be needed is a skill in a programming language such as VHDL or Verilog, and an understanding of logic/Boolean algebra.

    So why bother too much with specific chips, and their functions, when you can create the same functionality on a programmable device, plus you won't have to look for that chip (and how much time (money) is wasted doing that)?

    The reason I am asking is because this course will be followed by a couple of microprocessor courses; I would like to be prepared for them with a strong foundation. I would also like to know what will be most useful after I graduate (and looking for work).
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2008
  2. scubasteve_911

    Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
    1
    Hey,

    It seems hopeless, but I can assure you, it's a necessary foundation. An AND gate still needs to be understand, whether or not you build up an old TTL IC or plop it into an FPGA. Also, nothing will replace the ASIC, it's the ultimate in high performance.

    Engineering is all about trying to keep up with technology so that you can exploit it for various tasks. It's a life long race, then you're dead. It's all part of the job!

    Personally, I work on commercial projects in high volumes. So, we don't like to pay money for DSPs or FPGAs, I we stick to cheap 16-bit microcontrollers. But, if you plan on working on high end stuff, like image processing and radar, for example, then you'll need to know your verilog/VHDL well. FPGAs/ASIC have the tremendous advantage of doing many things at once, where a microcontroller is a single instruction per clock.

    Have fun!,

    Steve
     
  3. veritas

    Active Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    167
    0
    Basically, an ASIC/IC is for a specific purpose, can me mass-produced, and is CHEAP.

    An FPGA is VERY expensive comparatively, so they are generally used in development of ASICs, or for hardware that must be customizable/programmable on-the-fly.
     
  4. veritas

    Active Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    167
    0
    The fundamentals behind both an PLD/FPGA and an ASIC/digital IC are the same. You need to understand both if you're interested in pursuing digital hardware.
     
  5. silvrstring

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Mar 27, 2008
    159
    0
    scubasteve_911 and veritas, thanks for you responses.

    I guess I was thinking from more of a design perspective than that of large-scale production and cost. I know, shame on me. But I was also trying to picture the future. Maybe I went a little past my lifetime.

    I was just dreaming that one day, PLDs/FPGAs will be as inexpensive as common ICs are today--that they would replace the sea of chips we work with now. One chip, one world. Well, maybe more than one chip. But you get the picture. Just a dream, I guess.

    I got an AVR kit today. So while we are learning VHDL on our FPGAs at school, I'll also be able play with the microcontroller in my free time. I've been wanting to do that for a while anyway.

    Take care
     
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