[rc5] FPGAs, why manufacturers don't want you to have them, why you want them

Darxus darxus at Op.Net
Sun Nov 9 13:08:34 EST 1997

Sun Nov  9 12:34:45 EST 1997

from http://www.bsa.org/policy/encryption/cryptographers.html :

     Technology readily available today (late 1995) makes brute-force
     attacks against cryptographic systems considered adequate for the
     past several years both fast and cheap. General purpose computers
     can be used, but a much more efficient approach is to employ
     commercially available Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)


     A more efficient technological approach is to take advantage of
     commercially available Field Programmable Gate Arrays. FPGAs
     function as programmable hardware and allow faster implementations
     of such tasks as encryption and decryption than conventional
     processors. FPGAs are a commonly used tool for simple computations
     that need to be done very quickly, particularly simulating
     integrated circuits during development.

     FPGA technology is fast and cheap. The cost of an AT&T ORCA chip
     that can test 30 million DES keys per second is $200. This is 1,000
     times faster than a PC at about one-tenth the cost! FPGAs are
     widely available and, mounted on cards, can be installed in
     standard PCs just like sound cards, modems, or extra memory.

FPGAs are cool because they have speeds near that of burnt in ASIC
(Application Specific Integrated Circuit) chips (Pentiums, sound chips,
all those kinda things are ASICs) -- and unlike ASICs, FPGAs can be
reprogrammed to do lots of different things, like 3D graphics
acceleration, MPEG, etc.... and they don't have the initial startup cost
of ASICs which costs 10's of thousands of $$s to burn the first chip in.

In the #RC5 (EFNet) IRC channel a copule days ago somebody made a comment
similar to "there has got to be *some* reason these things aren't more
common" -- in response to me mentioning some of the advantages of FPGAs.

my response was yeah, there's a reason that chip manufacturers don't use
FPGAs.  the reason is that they can make lots more money of us by selling
us un-programable ASICs that have only one function.  the companies that
are currently selling cards with ASICs will make no money off of the sales
of FPGAs, since companies that have been developing FPGAs for a long time
have a great lead on this technology (like Xilinx, since, I believe,

and if they can sell you 10 different chips to do 10 different things, why
the hell would they want to sell you programs to do 10 different things to
be loaded onto a chip made and sold by another company ??

web pages with FPGA info:

RC5 on FPGAs (by barrel)

weaknesses of strong crypto

complete FPGA developement kits from Associated Pro:

a book on Logic Design (in HTML), recommended by barrel (our RC5 FPGA guy)

online FPGA tutorial from Associated Pro (based on their x84 thing)

FPGA vendors:

misc. FPGA pages:

I am aware that there are a good number of other people who are interested
in this technology, and I believe that we would all benifit greatly from
an fpga at llamas.net mailing list, but I have been unable to find out who to
contact on this matter... 

Sun Nov  9 13:08:20 EST 1997
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               darxus at op.net / http://www.op.net/~darxus 
         "You shall know the truth, and it shall make you odd."

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