11 February 2021

Hello Nexys - Part 2

Welcome back to our three-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. New to the series? Start with part 1. This series is also available for the Arty. Updated 2021-02-12. Get in touch with @WillFlux or open an issue on GitHub. Read more

28 January 2021

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 tour of drawing with triangles and the straight lines that form them. This post will implement Bresenham’s line algorithm in Verilog, creating lines, triangles, and even a cube (our first sort-of 3D graphics). In this series, we explore graphics at the hardware level and get a feel for the power of FPGAs. Read more

31 December 2020

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. Updated 2021-01-05. Feedback to @WillFlux is most welcome. Installing Verilator Verilator is available in most Linux distribution repos and will run on Windows Subsystem for Linux. Read more

22 December 2020

Square Root in Verilog

The square root is useful in many circumstances, including statistics, graphics, and signal processing. In this FPGA recipe, 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. You might also be interested in Division in Verilog. Updated 2021-01-04. Feedback to @WillFlux is most welcome. Getting Radical The square root of a number is a second number that multiplied by itself produces the first number. Read more

11 November 2020

Building iCE40 FPGA Toolchain on Linux

Since I tested FPGA development tools on Ubuntu 20.04, there have been requests for more posts on FPGA tooling. In this post, I provide a quick guide to building an open-source FPGA toolchain for iCE40 boards, such as iCEBreaker. I plan to cover ECP5 FPGAs in a future version. This guide is designed for Ubuntu or Pop!_OS 20.04, but should be straightforward to adjust to your own distro. These instructions will work on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), but there’s no USB support in WSL, so you can’t program boards under WSL. Read more

4 November 2020

Hello Nexys - Part 1

This three-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 in Arduino, Python, or JavaScript, then you shouldn’t have any trouble. I find working with FPGAs gives me a sense of delight so often lacking in modern software development. There’s something profoundly satisfying about designing at the hardware level, be it drawing graphics on a screen, producing sound from a speaker, or even implementing your own arcade game from scratch. Read more

30 October 2020

Framebuffers

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In the previous two parts, we worked with sprites, but as graphics become more complex, a different approach is needed. Instead of drawing directly to the screen, we draw to a framebuffer, which is read out when required by the screen. This post provides an introduction to framebuffers and how to scale them. We’ll also learn how to fizzlefade graphics Wolfenstein 3D style. In the next part, we’ll use a framebuffer to visualize a simulation of life. Read more

28 October 2020

Hardware Sprites

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In the previous part, we recreated Pong. In this part, we learn how to create colourful animated graphics with hardware sprites. Hardware sprites maintain much of the simplicity of our Pong design while offering much greater creative freedom. In the next part, we’ll create a demo that gives a taste of what’s possible with sprites. In this series, we explore graphics at the hardware level and get a feel for the power of FPGAs. Read more

22 September 2020

Life on Screen

Welcome back to Exploring FPGA Graphics. In this post we’re going to use the designs we created in Framebuffers to experiment with Conway’s Game of Life. In this series, we explore graphics at the hardware level and get a feel for the power of FPGAs. We start by learning how displays work, before racing the beam with Pong, starfields and sprites, simulating life with bitmaps, drawing lines and triangles, and finally creating simple 3D models. Read more

24 August 2020

FPGA Memory Types

Designing with FPGAs involves many types of memory, some familiar from other devices, but some that are specific to FPGAs. This FPGA recipe 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

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