Now this is rather cool. Australian design engineer Anthony Burch has put together a step-by-step video guide to help newcomers get started with Xilinx FPGAs. You can access these videos on his www.BurchED.com website. (As an aside, Anthony acts as a consultant, helping his clients to design and prototype simple or sophisticated high-density, multi-layer circuit boards, FPGAs, and general digital and analog circuits.)
I just watched these little beauties and I think they are GREAT. Anthony's style in these videos is extremely user friendly – you almost feel as though you are in the room with him looking over his shoulder. In fact, as he says in Part 1, if one of his friends called and asked: "Anthony, can you show me how to get started with FPGAs?" He would reply: "Of course, come over to my house and I'll walk you through it step-by-step." And this is pretty much the feel you get from these videos.
There are 18 short, easy-to-digest videos in the series; Parts 1 through 6 are free, while accessing parts 7 through 18 require a one-time payment of $27 US Dollars. Personally, considering the time and effort that goes into doing this sort of thing (I've made videos like this myself), I think this is a very good deal (there's also a special pricing package for educational establishments, who can purchase the whole series for their students to watch at home).
A brief summary of the series is as follows:
Welcome and Introduction from Anthony
FPGAs for Beginners – The Top Five Questions
- What is an FPGA? And how is it different to a microcontroller?
- Who makes FPGAs?
- What can I use FPGAs for?
- Why would I want to use FPGAs?
- How can I learn FPGA design?
Five questions to ask before you choose an FPGA board
What to do first when you get your FPGA board – a review of what is in the box and how to power up the board
The approach of this video course
How to download and install the free Xilinx design software
A quick overview of the design environment – The Xilinx ISE Project Navigator
How to think about FPGA design
Setting up the board
Connecting the USB cable for the first time. Installation of the cable drivers
Cable troubleshooting – what to do if the cable connection does not work
Entering a design – creating a new project and placing symbols
Entering I/O pad constraints
Compile the design and generate a programming file
Downloading the design to the board
Modifying the design, clocks and bus taps
More complicated schematic designs – macros and hierarchical design
What to do now – your own designs
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.