Tag Archives: FPGA

Spectrum Next, A New of ZX Spectrum

In 1982, the UK’s best selling computer, ZX Spectrum, was released by Sinclair as 8-bit personal home computer highlighting the machine’s color display. And today, a group of makers are introducing the Spectrum Next, an updated and enhanced version of ZX Spectrum.

The Spectrum Next is fully compatible with the original one. It enhanced to provide a wealth of advanced features such as better graphics, SD card storage, and manufacturing quality control. It also comes with a new software to make use of the new hardware, including new graphics modes and faster processor speeds.

As it is implemented with FPGA technology, it can be upgraded and enhanced using special memory chips and a clever design, while remaining compatible with the original hardware. It has a Z80 within, clocked to a blazing-fast 7Mhz, and an optional 1Ghz co-processor.

Technical Specifications:

  • Processor: Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
  • Memory: 512Kb RAM (expandable to 1.5Mb internally and 2.5Mb externally)
  • Video: Hardware sprites, 256 colours mode, Timex 8×1 mode etc.
  • Video Output: RGB, VGA, HDMI
  • Storage: SD Card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
  • Audio: 3x AY-3-8912 audio chips with stereo output + FM sound
  • Joystick: DB9 compatible with Cursor, Kempston and Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
  • PS/2 port: Mouse with Kempston mode emulation and an external keyboard
  • Special: Multiface functionality for memory access, savegames, cheats etc.
  • Tape support: Mic and Ear ports for tape loading and saving
  • Expansion: Original external bus expansion port and accelerator expansion port
  • Accelerator board (optional): GPU / 1Ghz CPU / 512Mb RAM
  • Network (optional): Wi Fi module
  • Extras: Real Time Clock (optional), internal speaker (optional)

Spectrum Next has three graphical modes; “Radastan”, “Layer 2” and Sprites. Radastan is a 128 x 96 with 16 colours per pixel from an enhanced palette. “Layer2” is a Next exclusive mode that supports a “layer screen”, a 256 x 192 with 256 colours per pixel. Sprites are exclusive to the Next too and can be used over the other modes. A “sprite” is a 16×16 image with 256 colours per pixel that can be drawn anywhere on screen, including the border area. Sprites can also be moved incredibly fast over the screen, because the job is done by hardware, not software.

ZX Spectrum Next in action

Next is a “esxDOS ready” that uses the system designed by Miguel Guerreiro, and it’s one of the most powerful OS available at this time, including support for the .TRD format widely used in Russia and required for some of the most advanced programs currently available for the Spectrum.

Three days remaining of Spectrum Next crowdfunding campaign, where they already reached 215% of their goal. The current cost is about $225 and you can pre-order your board through the kickstarter campaign. More details about Spectrum Next is available on the official website.

FPGAs For MCU Guys

by Max Maxfield @ eeweb.com:

A little while ago, it struck me that I was getting tired of explaining what FPGAs are and how they work their magic to those of my chums who — thus far — have worked only with microcontrollers (MCUs), so I decided to write a three-part mini-series of articles to offer as an introduction.

FPGAs For MCU Guys – [Link]

FPGA eink controller

Julien @ hackaday.io build a custom board to control e-ink display. He writes:

The idea is to control an old broken kindle 3 eink display with a FPGA. I started looking at http://essentialscrap.com/eink/waveforms.html and http://spritesmods.com/?art=einkdisplay since eink constructor is so secretive that you can’t find any information. I got some success with a stm32f4 microcontroller but was disapointed by the poor performance (low refresh, black and white only). So I decided to do something better using an FPGA and some memory, I started with the ice40 Olimex board https://www.olimex.com/Products/FPGA/iCE40/iCE40HX1K-EVB/open-source-hardware.

FPGA eink controller – [Link]

Arrow’s New FPGA-Based IoT Maker Board

Arrow Electronics has introduced a new FPGA IoT Maker Board designed for end-to-end application development and optimised for cost. The Arrow MAX1000 board can be installed directly into a custom application or integrated on to a completely separate board.

It has been created for start-ups, universities or established equipment manufacturers who want a flexible, low cost FPGA platform for development, and the distributor can also supply customised variants.

At the heart of the maker board is a compact (11x11mm) Intel MAX10 FPGA with 8000 logic elements. This single chip includes integrated flash memory, a 1Msps 12bit ADC for analogue signals and a 3.3V power supply. Other features include embedded SRAM, DSP blocks, instant-on within milliseconds, and the ability to implement Intel’s NIOS II soft core embedded processor to perform microcontroller tasks. The board is equipped with an integrated Arrow USB-Blaster that enables the FPGA to be programmed directly from a PC and debugged using the free of charge Intel Quartus Prime Lite software.

The MAX1000’s power can be supplied as 5V from the USB port or via a separate pin. An Enpirion DC/DC converter with integrated coil then generates the 3.3V supply used on board. A MEMS oscillator provides the clock supply for the FPGA and the USB bridge. The low power, 3-axis acceleration sensor – also based on MEMS technology, can be used for position and motion detection, which are often required in IoT applications. External SDRAM can be used for storage of application data or as memory for the NIOS II processor.

Visit Arrow Electronics at www.arrow.com

Source: eeDesign Europe

A FPGA controlled RGB LED MATRIX for Incredible Effects

A dot matrix RGB LED graphic panel, managed by a FPGA-based controller board that may be separately used as a demoboard, so to evaluate the potential of the on-board Spartan 6. First installment.

A FPGA controlled RGB LED MATRIX for Incredible Effects – [Link]

Low-Cost FPGA With Reconfigurable Electronics Feature

Iolinker is a cheap 64 FPGA board with a MachXO FPGA that functions as a dynamically configurable IO matrix. Its main functionality, besides IO extension, is to dynamically set up a matrix of GPIO connections, that allow direct pass-through of high-frequency signals. Circuits can thereby be configured and programmed on the fly. There are UART / SPI / I2C connections that allow for easy integration of up to 127 chips connected in parallel.

Thanks to the open source library, Iolinker allows developers to create reconfigurable, easy to self test electronics within minutes. It can be used to be an IO extender and can output PWM signals. In addition, its revolutionary “IO linking” feature allows to dynamically pass through high-speed signals between IOs, better than any microprocessor ever could.

Check this teaser about the new board:

Iolinker has the following specifications:

  • Reprogrammable FPGA board with Lattice LCMXO3L-4300E-5UWG81CTR50
  • Preprogrammed and usable out of the box as your IO interface of choice.
  • 49 GPIOs for PWM or IO extension usage, VCCIO is 3.3V.
  • Boards can be connected in parallel, to create endless IO extension.
  • IOs can be linked to each other, i.e. you tell the FPGA to connect them, and it forwards the input signal from one pin to another. (Read more about the iolinker chip function.)
  • UART, SPI or I2C interfaces are available.

In order to make the ultimate IO interface for users, the team are accepting feature requests at the contact page.

In short, the Iolinker board is easy to use and can reconfigure schematics on the fly, what makes it ideal to reduce prototyping time and jumper cable mess, and to maximize the ability of using IO extensions.

More technical details about Iolinker and its price will be announced soon at the Kickstarter campaign at Feb 14. Some special offers are for everyone who register in the website’s newsletter, so register now and stay tuned!


DueProLogic – USB-CPLD Development System


The DueProLogic is a complete FPGA Development System designed to easily get the user started learning and creating projects.

The DueProLogic makes programmable logic easy with an all inclusive development platform. It includes an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA, on board programming, four megabit configuration flash, and an SD connector for add on memory. You can create your HDL code, program it into the flash and interact with the hardware via a Windows PC.

DueProLogic – USB-CPLD Development System – [Link]

TE0722 Zynq DIPFORTy1 “Soft Propeller” Module

The DIPFORTy1 is a powerful Xilinx based FPGA board with small form factor and many programmable I/Os. It is popular for its high performance at most competitive price.

DIPFORTy front face-FPGA Board
DIPFORTy front face


The TE0722 is based on the Xilinx Zynq-7000, a System on Chip. It contains a FPGA and a Dual Core ARM A9+ processor with enough logic gates to become a Propeller. The board also has 16 MByte of flash used for configuration. Everything fits on a Propeller-compatible DIP 40 pin board. The 16 MByte storage space is good enough for primary boot, though a micro-SD card can be attached as MIO/ZYNQ secondary boot media.

DIPFORTy back side-FPGA Board
DIPFORTy back side

The DIPFORTy1 ‘Soft Propeller’ is the lowest cost Zynq based module ever made. It’s also the first Zynq module that can use existing bases and project boards (Parallax Propeller chip compatibility). All this in a compact 1.8 x 5.1 cm form factor, at the most competitive price.

Quick look at specs:

DIPFORTy1 quick specs-FPGA Board
DIPFORTy1 quick specs

About FPGA:

It’s good to have some knowledge about FPGA before getting to know about DIPFORTy.

field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by a designer after manufacturing. The FPGA configuration is generally specified using a hardware description language (HDL), similar to that used for an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC).

A Spartan FPGA from Xilinx

FPGAs contain an array of programmable logic blocks. The hierarchy of configurable interconnects allows the blocks to be “wired together”. It’s just like many logic gates that can be inter-wired in different configurations. Logic blocks can be configured to perform complex time-independent logics. Blocks also can perform merely simple logic gates like AND and XOR. In most FPGAs, logic blocks also include memory elements. It can be simple flip-flops or more complete blocks of memory.

Features of TE07722 DIPFORTy1:

The DIPFORTy1 has lots of features. Lets have a look:

  • Xilinx ZYNQ-7: XC7Z010-CLG225
    • Dual Core ARM A9+
    • 16 MByte SPI Flash (primary boot)
    • 33.333 MHz clock (MEMS Oscillator)
  • DIP40 form factor
    • 2 x 20 holes for socket pins or pin-header
    • Size: 18 mm x 51 mm
  • 3.3 V single supply
  • RGB LED (PL I/O connected)
  • “Done” LED (inverted polarity)






  • Total user accessible PL I/O: 46 (+3 Input only)
    • DIP40 header pins: 34 I/O
    • XMOD J1: 6 I/O
    • XMOD J2: JTAG + 2 I/O (or 3 input + 2 I/O)
    • XMOD J3: 4 I/O
  • MicroSD card socket (MIO, ZYNQ secondary boot media)
  • Sil1143 proximity and ambient light sensor

Pin-Out Of DIPFORTy1 :


Processor of DIPFORTy1 :

The FPGA board is designed using Xilinx ZYNQ-7: XC7Z010-CLG225.

zynq-mp-core-dual-FPGA Board

Zynq-7000 devices are equipped with dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processors integrated with 28nm Artix-7 or Kintex®-7 based programmable logic for excellent performance-per-watt and maximum design flexibility. With up to 6.6M logic cells and offered with transceivers ranging from 6.25Gb/s to 12.5Gb/s, Zynq-7000 devices enable highly differentiated designs for a wide range of embedded applications.


As the DIPFORTy1 is an industrial-grade Zynq-7000 SoC module, it’s highly powerful and appropriate for wide range of embedded applications including multi-camera drivers assistance systems and 4K/2K Ultra-HDTV. The board is totally value for money.

You can purchase it from trenz electronic or Digi-Key.

Vivado HL WebPACK Edition (free Version) is the recommended software.

FPGA-Based Arduino Shield

Inspired by an interest in spreading the concepts of FPGA, and because its ability to overcome most of other platforms limitations such as IO, memory, and peripherals, technolomaniac had worked on developing the first Arduino FPGA shield.


A Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by a customer or a designer after manufacturing. FPGAs contain an array of programmable logic blocks which include memory elements, and a hierarchy of reconfigurable interconnects that allow the blocks to be “wired together” to perform complex combinational functions, or merely simple logic gates like AND and XOR.

The FPGA shield includes additional I/O and memory resources, and it can be programmed either by SPI flash or via Arduino Due. Programming by the SPI flash from Arduino is done via the ICSP header which is carried on the shield board. The shield also include a second chip select (GPIO) to enable the ICSP to connect to the FPGA via SPI.


The PCB board contains these components:

The flash memory is large enough to be used by an FPGA processor, and also can hold multiple images of the FPGA configuration.

How-to video

The project is open source and all design files are available on Github.

For more details, build instructions, and project updates you can follow the project’s page on hackaday.

Test application for the FPGA Tibbit in the smart LED controller configuration

This application example shows how to connect and use RGBW LED stripe with TPS hardware platform. The main difficulty is that LEDs have their own color generation circuit inside. New FPGA Tibbit #57 can generate fast PWM signal, which is needed for proper LEDs operation. Also, the topic shows the main advantage of FPGA technology. It allows the user to create any external interface, which will be easily connected to the TPS platform.

Test application for the FPGA Tibbit in the smart LED controller configuration – [Link]