How to start?

This section is intended for those who don't know almost anything about FPGAs.

Software

In order to develop for FPGA, you need special software. This software is produced by the FPGA vendors:

  • Xilinx Integrated Software Environment (ISE) can be used to develop for Xilinx devices,
  • Altera Quartus II suite is used to develop for Altera FPGAs.

This software is not very cheap, but both Xilinx and Altera distribute limited versions of these software for free. These limited versions are quite functional, but lack some advanced features (such as support of the high-end FPGA devices).

These limited versions can be downloaded from the Web:

Hardware description languages

Although it is possible to create a gate-level circuit schematic and load it to the FPGA device (this method is called schematic entry), the more common method is to describe device in a special hardware description languages (the most common hardware description languages being VHDL and Verilog). In addition to being more convenient, they are also more vendor-independent.

There will be some further information later in this tutorial. There are also pretty many links on the Web.

Hardware

Although you can create FPGA projects and generate bitstreams without any specialized hardware, the final goal of an FPGA designer is to ensure that his design runs well in hardware. The simplest way to do this is to use a development board (also called prototyping board or evaluation board). The range of boards can be found on FPGA vendors' websites:

The FPGA tutorial was created by 1-CORE technologies, an FPGA design service provider.

The FPGA tutorial has been created by 1-CORE Technologies, an FPGA design services provider.

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