Electronics > FPGA

Getting started Altera Flex 10K questions from FPGA newby

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CJay:
In an fit of idiocy, I've decided I'd like to have a play with FPGAs, another thing to add to the never shrinking pile of projects.

I'm quite out of my depth so far, it's been a bit of a mission to even find a pinout for the chips I have (sorted now)

I've got, courtesy of another member, a pile of quite nice looking boards with an Altera Flex 10K20 chip, a NTSC/PAL video encoder and a fair bit of fast static RAM that seems to be arranged as one 512KB block and three separate 128KB blocks (I'm assuming it was one block per primary colour) as well as an odd USB interface chip.

While they're not ideal as a dev board (pins not broken out to headers or proto area) they have some excellent attributes, they were free (Important), have a JTAG socket and an FPGA that's potentially removable and re-usable if I design my own board (the chips list at $110 each, surely wrong?).

I'm aware that I can get Quartus 2, it's huge so suggestions of alternatives for Windows or Linux are welcome.

I'm also aware that the FPGA is static RAM based so I can upload my efforts to it but for them to be retained through power cycle I need a config memory.

The boards all have a socket for such a memory, they've currently got EPC1441 chips installed which I believe aren't reprogrammable and are now obsolete so that's a bit of an issue, do I *have* to use the EPC series chips or are there other chips I could use (preferably reprogrammable and cheap)?

Is this a case of 'I wouldn't start from here' or does this have mileage?

BrianHG:
As what you have is free, note that there are now Max10k FPGA starting at 6$ which have more than a Flex 10K20 and the flex10k series is discontinued.  This doesn't mean you still cant do things with the Flex10k, however, you will need to use an older version of Quartus, like over 5 years old or so...
Which dev board do you have?

Note that the Max10 FPGAs have their bootprom built in, so, with them, if you move these FPGA from their dev board, they will retain everything.

I am not sure about the really old EPC1441, however, with Altera's newer bootproms for CycloneII and above FPGAs are flash instead of OTP, and they are function compatible with standard serial SPI NOR flash IC.  Though, the smallest one today being something like 16mb instead of 440kb, the larger ones used to work with any CycloneII or above FPGA in my designs.  I can't guarantee the same about the Flex10k, you would need to try one out, and at around 1-2$ at digikey, and some custom wiring, it may work.

CJay:
Thanks Brian, one of the attractions of the Flex 10K is the 5V tolerance and a workable package for me (no BGA facilities here) but I'm open to suggestions, the 5V tolerance isn't an essential.

The boards aren't a dev board, they're a custom application that was begging to be re-used somehow, I may just harvest the SRAM and a few other bits if they're useless, suggestions for a MAX10 dev board that's dirt cheap or is it simple to roll my own and use one of the cheap PCB services and hand assemble?

(Note, I'm not tied to Altera, it's what I have, happy to move to whatever works/gives most bang per buck)

BrianHG:

--- Quote from: CJay on November 01, 2019, 10:10:52 am ---Thanks Brian, one of the attractions of the Flex 10K is the 5V tolerance and a workable package for me (no BGA facilities here) but I'm open to suggestions, the 5V tolerance isn't an essential.

The boards aren't a dev board, they're a custom application that was begging to be re-used somehow, I may just harvest the SRAM and a few other bits if they're useless, suggestions for a MAX10 dev board that's dirt cheap or is it simple to roll my own and use one of the cheap PCB services and hand assemble?

(Note, I'm not tied to Altera, it's what I have, happy to move to whatever works/gives most bang per buck)

--- End quote ---
I mentioned the Max10 since it does come in 144pin TQFP and has the built in flash like a PLD with the size of an FPGA.  In fact, you can select the 6$on up to 50$ which all are pin-pin compatible.  It also only requires a single supply and has PLLs with DDR2/3 capable IO.  Sadly, it is only 3.3v or less, though, in the past I have used series resistorts and clamping diodes to interface with 5v TTL.

IE, the 6$ Max10 is large enough to replicate an entire Atari 400, that's with it's own internal ram, internal 6502 core, internal graphics and sound processor.  With a single external ram chip you can make a top of the line 8 bit computer, or even a 24/32bit 2D video card with a simple 3D geometry engine.  I always wanted to use the 50$ version of the chip with a high quality 3 channel ADC to make a high quality XY+Z plotting oscilloscope with DVI output to replicate old analog scopes, all in one chip I could sell.

CJay:

--- Quote from: BrianHG on November 01, 2019, 10:53:10 am ---I mentioned the Max10 since it does come in 144pin TQFP and has the built in flash like a PLD with the size of an FPGA.  In fact, you can select the 6$on up to 50$ which all are pin-pin compatible.  It also only requires a single supply and has PLLs with DDR2/3 capable IO.  Sadly, it is only 3.3v or less, though, in the past I have used series resistorts and clamping diodes to interface with 5v TTL.

IE, the 6$ Max10 is large enough to replicate an entire Atari 400, that's with it's own internal ram, internal 6502 core, internal graphics and sound processor.  With a single external ram chip you can make a top of the line 8 bit computer, or even a 24/32bit 2D video card with a simple 3D geometry engine.  I always wanted to use the 50$ version of the chip with a high quality 2 channel ADC to make a high quality XY+Z plotting oscilloscope with DVI output to replicate old analog scopes.


--- End quote ---

Wow, yes, that sounds like a lot of power for $6, way more than I'll use but why not have it for that price.

One of the problems for a beginner like me is the scale of these things, knowing how the figures translate into relatable hardware is really useful, I doubt I'll ever tax it to it's limits (unless I just end up writing hugely inefficient stuff).

Is there FOSS toolchain for the Altera or is it all Intel proprietary?

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