What's an FPGA



FPGA CPLD User (not verified)
July 13, 2007 - 10:48pm

FPGA Description

A Field Programmable Gate Array or FPGA is a semiconductor device containing programmable logic components and programmable interconnects. The programmable logic components can be programmed to duplicate the functionality of basic logic gates such as AND, OR, XOR, NOT or more complex combinatorial functions such as decoders or simple math functions. In most FPGAs, these programmable logic components (or logic blocks, in FPGA parlance) also include memory elements, which may be simple flip-flops or more complete blocks of memories.

A hierarchy of programmable interconnects allows the logic blocks of an FPGA to be interconnected as needed by the system designer, somewhat like a one-chip programmable breadboard. These logic blocks and interconnects can be programmed after the manufacturing process by the customer/designer (hence the term "field programmable") so that the FPGA can perform whatever logical function is needed.

FPGAs are generally slower than their application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) counterparts, can't handle as complex a design, and draw more power. However, they have several advantages such as a shorter time to market, ability to re-program in the field to fix bugs, and lower non-recurring engineering costs. Vendors can sell cheaper, less flexible versions of their FPGAs which cannot be modified after the design is committed. The development of these designs is made on regular FPGAs and then migrated into a fixed version that more resembles an ASIC. Complex programmable logic devices, or CPLDs, are another alternative.

Lance Lane (not verified)
July 16, 2007 - 11:10pm

I want one. Where can I get them cheap.

I just learned of the large scale FPGA existence, and although I am a programmer by nature some with electronics experience, the concept of using this to create new hardware systems with only software is just plain thrilling!

I would like to setup a simple lab experiment tied into a PC to get my feet wet.
Do you have any suggestions to minimize cost while I learn fantastic technology?

August 24, 2007 - 7:41am

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