[rc5] Re: I'm interested in FPGAs. How do I start ? (fwd)

Darxus darxus at Op.Net
Wed Nov 5 07:11:34 EST 1997

***PGP fingerprint = D5 EB F8 E7 64 55 CF 91  C2 4F E0 4D 18 B6 7C 27***
               darxus at op.net / http://www.op.net/~darxus 
         "You shall know the truth, and it shall make you odd."

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 05:06:40 -0700 (MST)
From: Mark Collette <mcollett at stu.athabascau.ca>
To: Darxus <darxus at monet.op.net>
Subject: Re: I'm interested in FPGAs.  How do I start ?

On Mon, 3 Nov 1997, Darxus wrote:

> I know very little about FPGAs, and I wish to remedy this.

Good. We need more designers who know about FPGAs.

> I believe this technology may be within my price range, in fact, it may be
> possible for me to be able to get a setup with a number of these chips.

FPGAs are getting cheaper.
> I could not find a FPGA FAQ on ftp://rtfm.mit.edu, and unfortunately there
> seem to be bad connections between me and http://www.plnv.com (somewhere
> in the netcom.com domain) at the moment.
> I am interested in the possibility of porting such things as:
>  * OpenGL (http://www.sgi.com/Technology/OpenGL)

SGI probably already has their geometry and lighting engines in FPGAs.

>  * general (substantial?) floating point acceleration

Some FPUs are implemented with FPGAs, at least for early versions.

>  * MPEG video & audio (other formats as well)

Most MPEG decoders are based on FPGAs.

>  * distributed computing projects, including:
>     + the RC5 Challenge (http://www.rsa.com/rsalabs/97challenge/),
>       specifically the Bovine Project (http://rc5.distributed.net)

This would be a natural application for a FPGA.  It's a small, self-
contained algorithm which needs to run as fast as possible.

>     + distributed Chess
>     + the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS)
>       (http://www.mersenne.org/)
>     + searching for optimal Golomb rulers
>       (http://members.aol.com/golomb20/index.html)

ditto, ditto, ditto.
>   and, most importantly, the V3 cross-platform open distributed networking
>   protocol, being developed by the distributed.net folks.

I'm not sure what this is.  I guess I'll take a peek at distributed.net's
web page.

> From what I have found, it seems that Xilinx makes good chips, but I do
> not know if there are commercially available PCI cards available with
> these chips.  If not, I am willing to get some schematics an learn to
> build a PCI card of my own.

There is a PC card with 4 or 8 Xilinx FPGAs on it.  It's probably ISA, but
there is likely a PCI version out also.  PCI cards are easy because there
are standard PCI bus interface chipsets available.

> Whatever it takes.
> My operating system of choice is Linux on an x86 platform, but I can do
> Windows 95 as well, if necessary.

It shouldn't be hard to write Linux device drivers for FPGA cards.  They
would appear to the system as a set of registers, and (for some FPGAs) a
SRAM array.
> I like what I've heard of this technology, and it blows my mind that it is
> not much more commonplace.

It is quite commonplace in consumer electronics now.
> Any and all information you can give me on where I can get this stuff, how
> much this technology will cost me, how much power I can get for this cost
> (I'm looking for around $500 ?), and what I can do with it -- and how I
> can learn how to do what I can do with it, will be most greatly
> appreciated.

The parts alone are in the $100-$500 range.  A development system is
considerably more.

Contact Xilinx, Lattice, Actel and other FPGA manufacturers and their 
suppliers, and visit their web pages for more information and specifics
on particular parts.

To unsubscribe, send email to majordomo at llamas.net with 'unsubscribe rc5' in the body.

More information about the rc5 mailing list