Project F

Welcome to Project F. A little oasis for FPGA and RISC-V design.

RISC-V Assembler: Load Store

RISC-V Assembler: Load Store

Part four of RISC-V assembler looks at load and store instructions, such as lw, sw, and lbu. We’ll also cover memory alignment, addressing modes, and loading symbol addresses. Read More...

RISC-V Assembler: Shift

RISC-V Assembler: Shift

The third part of our RISC-V assembler series covers shift instructions, such as sll and srai. Read More...

RISC-V Assembler: Logical

RISC-V Assembler: Logical

The second part of our RISC-V assembler series covers logical instructions, such as and and xori. Read More...

RISC-V Assembler: Arithmetic

RISC-V Assembler: Arithmetic

In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of RISC-V CPU designs, especially on FPGA. This series will help you learn and understand 32-bit RISC-V instructions (RV32) and the RISC-V ABI. The first part looks at load immediate, addition, and subtraction. We’ll also cover sign extension and pseudoinstructions. Read More...

News: April 2023

News: April 2023

Welcome to the latest Project F news covering the first part of 2023. In this edition, we sail the sea of chaos, round out division, automate Vivado with Tcl, and uncover openFPGALoader and cocotb. Read More...

Vivado Tcl Build Script

Vivado Tcl Build Script

Are you tired of firing up the Vivado GUI to build an FPGA project? You can automate your Xilinx FPGA build using a little Tcl. And you don’t even need to know any Tcl. Building your design from a script also comes in handy for continuous integration (CI) and Makefiles. Plus, I’ll show you how to quickly program your dev board with openFPGALoader. Read More...

Mandelbrot in Verilog

Mandelbrot in Verilog

This FPGA demo uses fixed-point multiplication and a small framebuffer to render the Mandelbrot set. You can navigate around the complex plane using buttons on your dev board. Read More...

News: December 2022

News: December 2022

Happy New Year and welcome to the latest Project F news covering the end of 2022. This update is packed with maths, graphics and the usual smattering of bits and pieces. Read More...

Verilog Vectors and Arrays

Verilog Vectors and Arrays

Welcome back to my series covering mathematics and algorithms with FPGAs. In this part, we dig into vectors and arrays, including slicing, configurable widths, for loops, and bit and byte ordering. Read More...

Rasterbars

Rasterbars

This FPGA demo effect renders four animated rasterbars. I created this effect with benjamin.computer for All You Need, a Chapterhouse prod released at Revision 2022. Read More...

Sine Scroller

Sine Scroller

This FPGA demo effect renders a horizontally scrolling message along a sine wave. I created this effect with benjamin.computer for All You Need, a Chapterhouse prod released at Revision 2022. Read More...

News: September 2022

News: September 2022

Welcome to Project F news for July, August, and September 2022. There are four blog posts to cover and plans for the remainder of 2022. Read More...

Castle Drawing

Castle Drawing

In this FPGA demo, we use multiple shapes (rectangles, triangles, circles) to render a simple picture of a castle. We don’t use any software or CPU, just shape rasterization and finite state machines. This Verilog design runs on the Digilent Arty A7 or as a Verilator/SDL simulation on your computer. Read More...

News: June 2022

News: June 2022

Project F news is back! It’s been a while, so this edition covers the first half of 2022. There are six new blog posts to cover as well as plans for the next few months. Read More...

Lib: clock/xd

Lib: clock/xd

Sometimes you need to send a single pulse from one clock domain to another. This is a simple case of clock domain crossing or CDC. This post uses the xd module from the Project F Library to handle such situations simply and safely. Read More...

Display Signals

Display Signals

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. Last time, we played Pong against our FPGA; this time, we revisit displays signals and learn about palettes and indexed colour. Read More...

Racing the Beam

Racing the Beam

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. Last time, we got an introduction to FPGA graphics; let’s put our new graphical skills to work with some simple demo effects. I hope these examples inspire you to create your own effects and improve your hardware design skills. Read More...

News: November 2021

News: November 2021

Welcome to your November news from Project F. This month’s new blog post covers multiplication with DSPs, plus there are loads of interesting links and an FPGA advent calendar. I’m also happy to report that the main Project F repo projf-explore passed 200 stars on GitHub. Read More...

Multiplication with FPGA DSPs

Multiplication with FPGA DSPs

Welcome back to my series covering mathematics and algorithms with FPGAs. Project F is known for its practical, hands-on tutorials. So, I decided to dedicate a post to a topic usually ignored by FPGA authors: multiplication with DSPs. Read More...

News: October 2021

News: October 2021

Welcome to October’s update from Project F. This month, we build a rainbow from circles, learn more about numbers in Verilog, find a UART in the library, and hear about exciting FPGA projects from Ben Blundell and Rob Shelton. Read More...

News: September 2021

News: September 2021

Project F news is your monthly bowl of FPGA goodness with tasty tips and links from other developers mixed in. This month I began a new series on Maths & Algorithms, added a new rotation demo, and started a new blog on computing history. September also saw the release of Yosys 0.10 and the sad death of Sir Clive Sinclair. Read More...

Numbers in Verilog

Numbers in Verilog

Welcome to my ongoing series covering mathematics and algorithms with FPGAs. This series begins with the basics of Verilog numbers, then considers fixed-point, division, square roots and CORDIC before covering more complex algorithms, such as data compression. Read More...

News: August 2021

News: August 2021

Project F news is your monthly bowl of FPGA goodness with tasty tips and links from other developers mixed in. August saw my first circle drawn, new graphics designs for iCEBreaker, improved build instructions, and the first draft of a new post covering animated graphics and double buffering. Read More...

Animated Shapes

Animated Shapes

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In the final part of our introductory graphics series, we’re looking at animation. We’ve already seen animation with hardware sprites, but double buffering gives us maximum creative freedom with fast, tear-free motion. Read More...

News: July 2021

News: July 2021

Project F news is your monthly update on the FPGA project, with tasty tips and links from other developers thrown in. This month, iCE40 SPRAM takes centre stage, filled triangles add graphical goodness, we learn that Linux will fit on an iCEBreaker, and discover FPGAs on Mars. Read More...

SPRAM on iCE40 FPGA

SPRAM on iCE40 FPGA

The iCE40 UltraPlus distinguishes itself from the rest of the iCE40 FPGA family by including a relatively generous 1 Mb (128 KiB) of single port synchronous SRAM known as SPRAM. SPRAM blocks are much larger than BRAM but are limited to a single port and 16-bit data bus. Read More...

News: June 2021

News: June 2021

Project F news is your monthly update on the project, with tasty tips and links thrown in. Last month’s issue was well received, so I’m continuing with the experiment. June wasn’t the easiest of months, with a stint of COVID self-isolation, but I’m happy to have written about Verilator and SDL. Read More...

Verilog Simulation with Verilator and SDL

Verilog Simulation with Verilator and SDL

It can be challenging to test your FPGA or ASIC graphics designs. You can perform low-level behavioural simulations and examine waveforms, but you also need to verify how the video output will appear on the screen. By combining Verilator and SDL, you can build Verilog simulations that let you see your design on your computer. Read More...

News: May 2021

News: May 2021

As well as the occasional big blog post, I make many smaller FPGA discoveries and Project F updates each month. I thought it would be interesting to share a few of these in a monthly news post. What do you think? Read More...

FPGA Sine Lookup Table

FPGA Sine Lookup Table

In this how to, we’re going to look at a straightforward method for generating sine and cosine using a lookup table. There are more precise methods, but this one is fast and simple and will suffice for many applications. Read More...

Hello Arty - Part 3

Hello Arty - Part 3

Welcome back to our three-part FPGA tutorial with SystemVerilog and the Digilent Arty A7. In this third instalment, we build a countdown timer and model traffic lights. There’s a lot to get through this time: enums, case statements, button debouncing, shift registers, and the all-important finite state machine. Read More...

Verilog Library Announcement

Verilog Library Announcement

I like to learn by doing, by trying things out and experimenting. However, this is hard with FPGAs; there’s a significant lack of practical Verilog designs online. The Project F Library is the latest part of my attempt to make things a little better for FPGA hackers and beginners. Read More...

2D Shapes

2D Shapes

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In 2D Shapes, we build on what we learned from Lines and Triangles in two ways: drawing new shapes and learning to colour them in. We’ll start with rectangles and filled triangles before moving on to circles. These basic shapes make it possible to create a wide variety of graphics and user interfaces. Read More...

Hello Nexys - Part 2

Hello Nexys - Part 2

Welcome back to our two-part FPGA tutorial with SystemVerilog and the Digilent Nexys Video. In part two, we’re going to learn about clocks and counting. Along the way, we’ll cover maintaining state with flip-flops, timing things with clock dividers, creating our first Verilog module, and controlling LEDs with pulse width modulation. Read More...

Lines and Triangles

Lines and Triangles

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. It’s time to turn our attention to drawing. Most modern computer graphics come down to drawing triangles and colouring them in. So, it seems fitting to begin our drawing tour with triangles and the straight lines that form them. This post will implement Bresenham’s line algorithm in Verilog and create lines, triangles, and even a cube (our first sort-of 3D). Read More...

Verilog Lint with Verilator

Verilog Lint with Verilator

Hardware design can be unforgiving, so it pays to use any advantage you can get. Verilator is a Verilog simulator and C++ compiler that also supports linting: statically analysing your designs for issues. Not only can Verilator spot problems your synthesis tool might overlook, but it also runs quickly. Read More...

Square Root in Verilog

Square Root in Verilog

The square root is useful in many circumstances, including statistics, graphics, and signal processing. In this how to, we’re going to look at a straightforward digit-by-digit square root algorithm for integer and fixed-point numbers. There are lower-latency methods, but this one is simple, using only subtraction and bit shifts. Read More...

iCE40 FPGA Toolchain on Linux

iCE40 FPGA Toolchain on Linux

In this post, I provide a quick guide to building an open-source FPGA toolchain for iCE40 boards, such as iCEBreaker, on Linux. This guide is designed for Ubuntu or Pop!_OS 20.04, but should be straightforward to adjust to your own distro. Read More...

Hello Nexys - Part 1

Hello Nexys - Part 1

This two-part tutorial provides a quick introduction to FPGA development with SystemVerilog and the Digilent Nexys Video board. No prior experience of FPGA development is required, but basic knowledge of programming concepts is assumed. If you can write a simple program with Python or JavaScript, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Read More...

Framebuffers

Framebuffers

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In the previous part, we worked with sprites, but another approach is needed as graphics become more complex. Instead of drawing directly to the screen, we draw to a bitmap, which is read out to the screen. This post provides an introduction to framebuffers and how to scale them up. We’ll also learn how to fizzlefade graphics Wolfenstein 3D style. Read More...

Hardware Sprites

Hardware Sprites

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In the previous part, we updated our display signals and learnt about colour palettes. This part shows you how to create fast, colourful graphics with minimal logic. Hardware sprites maintain much of the simplicity of our Pong design while offering greater creative freedom. Read More...

Life on Screen

Life on Screen

In this FPGA demo we’ll experiment with Game of Life, a cellular automaton created by prolific mathematician John Conway in 1970. Read More...

FPGA Memory Types

FPGA Memory Types

Designing with FPGAs involves many types of memory, some familiar from other devices, but some that are specific to FPGAs. This how to gives a quick overview of the different flavours, together with their strengths and weaknesses, and some sample designs. This guide includes external memory types, such as SRAM and HBM, that are used in CPUs and GPUs, so much of what is said here is generally applicable, but the focus is on FPGAs. Read More...

FPGA Pong

FPGA Pong

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. Last time, we raced the beam; this time, we’ll recreate the arcade classic, Pong and play against our FPGA. Read More...

Division in Verilog

Division in Verilog

Division is a fundamental arithmetic operation we take for granted. FPGAs include dedicated hardware to perform addition, subtraction, and multiplication and will infer the necessary logic. Division is different: we need to do it ourselves. This post looks at a straightforward division algorithm for positive integers before extending it to cover fixed-point numbers and signed numbers. Read More...

Video Timings: VGA, SVGA, 720p, 1080p

Video Timings: VGA, SVGA, 720p, 1080p

To work with standard monitors and TVs, you need to use the correct video timings. This how to includes the timings for five standard display modes using analogue VGA, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort: 640x480 (VGA), 800x600 (SVGA), 1280x720, and 1920x1080 (30 Hz and 60 Hz). Read More...

Ad Astra

Ad Astra

This collection of related demos combines some of my earliest FPGA designs from 2018: simple sprites and an animated starfield generated with a linear-feedback shift register. Read More...

Fixed Point Numbers in Verilog

Fixed Point Numbers in Verilog

Sometimes you need more precision than integers can provide, but floating-point computation is not trivial (try reading IEEE 754). You could use a library or IP block, but simple fixed point maths can often get the job done with little effort. Furthermore, most FPGAs have dedicated DSP blocks that make multiplication and addition of integers fast; we can take advantage of that with a fixed-point approach. Read More...

Beginning FPGA Graphics

Beginning FPGA Graphics

Welcome to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In this series, we learn about graphics at the hardware level and get a feel for the power of FPGAs. We’ll learn how screens work, play Pong, create starfields and sprites, paint Michelangelo’s David, draw lines and triangles, and animate characters and shapes. Along the way, you’ll experience a range of designs and techniques, from memory and finite state machines to crossing clock domains and translating C algorithms into Verilog. Read More...

Hello Arty - Part 2

Hello Arty - Part 2

Welcome back to our three-part FPGA tutorial with SystemVerilog and the Digilent Arty A7. In part two, we’re going to learn about clocks and counting. Along the way, we’ll cover maintaining state with flip-flops, timing things with clock dividers, creating our first Verilog module, and controlling LEDs with pulse width modulation. You might be surprised how far counting takes you: by the end of this tutorial, you’ll be creating RGB lighting effects worthy of a cheesy gaming PC. Read More...

Hello Arty - Part 1

Hello Arty - Part 1

This three-part tutorial provides a quick introduction to FPGA development with SystemVerilog and the Digilent Arty A7 board. No prior experience of FPGA development is required, but basic knowledge of programming concepts is assumed. If you can write a simple program with Python or JavaScript, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Read More...

Initialize Memory in Verilog

Initialize Memory in Verilog

It’s common for a simulation or firmware to need data loading into a memory array, ram, or rom. Fortunately, Verilog provides the $readmemh and $readmemb functions for this very purpose. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of good Verilog documentation online, so using them can be harder than it should be. This how to explains the syntax and provides plenty of examples, including how to do this in Yosys and Xilinx Vivado. Read More...

FPGA Tooling on Ubuntu 20.04

FPGA Tooling on Ubuntu 20.04

In this post, I test common FPGA tools for compatibility with Ubuntu 20.04 (AKA Focal Fossa), and my regular desktop OS: Pop!_OS 20.04. These tests are in no way exhaustive: I have tried using the applications as I usually do to exercise the main functionality. I have also included instructions for building the tools from source when available. Read More...