I know, I know, you're probably sick of me talking about this by now, but I'm rather excited at the moment so you'll just have to bear with me. As you will doubtless recall, we published a book last year called How Computers Do Math. Amongst other things, the CD-ROM accompanying this book contains a virtual computer-calculator called the DIY Calculator.
The "DIY" stands for "Do-It-Yourself", because when you first click its buttons on your screen ... nothing happens! But wait, there's more! The book walks the reader through the process of creating a program (in our simple assembly language) that makes the DIY Calculator ... well, calculate.
There's also a "Workbench" interface with switches connected to the DIY Calculator's input ports and LEDs connected to its output ports that you can play with. This is a fantastic way for anyone to gain a real in-depth understanding as to how computers perform their magic in general, and how they do math in particular.
But the exciting news is that two Austrian engineers – Johannes Hausensteiner and Helmut Zulus – have commenced a project to implement a low-cost physical implementation of the DIY Calculator. They've based their project on a low-cost, high-performance FPGA from Lattice Semiconductor (Lattice kindly agreed to support this project by donating a copy of their ispLEVER design software).
When they've finished, we'll be able to create and test programs in our virtual world, and then download them into the physical DIY Calculator. Can you imagine having a calculator sat on your desk that – whenever you perform a calculation – you know exactly what the calculator is doing and how it's doing it! How mega-cool – I can't wait! In the meantime, Johannes and Helmut have just (earlier today as I pen these words) launched a Wiki to document the project. If you have a free moment, why not bounce over and take a look?
On the off-chance you're interested, you can access a fully-functional free copy of the virtual DIY Calculator from the Downloads page of the DIY Calculator website (and don't forget to visit the home page and click on the "Demos" button for some step-by-step tutorials).
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.