Today, my topic covers an entirely different type of programmable device, which is referred to as an FPRF (field-programmable radio frequency) chip. But first, let's start with a very quick look at the traditional FPGA concept.
As we all know, FPGAs evolved from simple glue logic consolidation to being capable of implementing complex digital functions. Along the way, they have included a growing range of hard logic cores and functions such as processors and dedicated interface blocks. Some FPGAs also feature sophisticated analog functions such as high speed transceivers, but -- generally speaking -- FPGAs have really only touched the fringes of the analog world.
In contrast, the FPRF comes from the wireless domain and brings exciting new possibilities. At the highest level of abstraction, the FPRF transmitter takes a digital data stream and converts it into wireless signals, while the receiver perform the inverse operation. Add to this the capability to program key parameters like the RF frequency, gain, and bandwidth, and you have the essential ingredients of an FPRF chip.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.