Author Topic: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs  (Read 5677 times)

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Offline TheSolarShed

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Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« on: May 29, 2013, 07:13:20 pm »
Good day, all,

I've always been interested in reusing electronics that I've saved or salvaged from dumpsters for projects. For a long while now I've been interested in getting started with FPGAs but haven't really had the money to buy a kit. Recently, I acquired four Actel A1020B FPGAs from some data acquisition/processing boards that were being thrown out at my university.

What is the feasibility of using these chips?

I haven't managed to figure out what programmer I would need, neither do I know what software I would need to create images (binaries?). It would be rather pointless to pay for outdated software for outdated FPGAs. Ideas?

Regards,
TheSolarShed :scared:
 

Offline edavid

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2013, 07:35:18 pm »
Those are OTP devices, so it would be pretty hard to reuse them.
 

Offline TheSolarShed

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2013, 07:55:54 pm »
Are they? Darn! :(

TheSolarShed
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2013, 10:54:57 pm »
Old FPGAs in general can be more trouble then they are worth - you need to look carefully at what is still supported by software, and even if older SW is available it may need stuff like oddball memory managers etc. for older PC architectures.
They may also need expensive dedicated config memories.
Youtube channel:Taking wierd stuff apart. Very apart.
Mike's Electric Stuff: High voltage, vintage electronics etc.
Day Job: Mostly LEDs
 

Offline TheSolarShed

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 10:21:30 am »
Alright, I have decided; I am going to purchase a kit. Two choices that are within my budget are the Lattice iCEblink40-HX1K or the Lattice ispMACH4256ZE. The ispMACH will only be available end of July. I don't want to wait until then, unless it's worth the wait?

Perhaps this is worthy of a new thread, but meh. Opinions as to which would be a better choice for an absolute FPGA-novice?

Thanks,
TheSolarShed :-//
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2013, 11:50:34 am »
Alright, I have decided; I am going to purchase a kit. Two choices that are within my budget are the Lattice iCEblink40-HX1K or the Lattice ispMACH4256ZE. The ispMACH will only be available end of July. I don't want to wait until then, unless it's worth the wait?

Perhaps this is worthy of a new thread, but meh. Opinions as to which would be a better choice for an absolute FPGA-novice?

Thanks,
TheSolarShed :-//

You probably want to start off with a proper FPGA rather than a CPLD like the ispMACH - with a bigger device, there won't be any struggle to fit, and compile times will probably be shorter.
Iceblink is good value - I don't know what the tools are like.
Another very cheap board is the Lattice XO2 board
http://www.digikey.co.uk/scripts/dksearch/dksus.dll?pv47=20648&FV=fff40028%2Cfff8014d&k=lcmxo2&mnonly=0&newproducts=0&ColumnSort=0&page=1&quantity=0&ptm=0&fid=0&pageSize=25
Youtube channel:Taking wierd stuff apart. Very apart.
Mike's Electric Stuff: High voltage, vintage electronics etc.
Day Job: Mostly LEDs
 

Offline TheSolarShed

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2013, 12:37:41 pm »
The only XO (not XO2) board I can get locally is the LCMXO2280-B-EVN which is indeed inline in price with the other options I have. Though it doesn't have as much logic capacity your suggestion.

Is it fair to say the LCMXO2280 is "beefier" than the iCE40, though it's a PLD and not an FPGA? If so then I think I may be sold on the XO.

TheSolarShed
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2013, 12:58:00 pm »
The only XO (not XO2) board I can get locally is the LCMXO2280-B-EVN which is indeed inline in price with the other options I have. Though it doesn't have as much logic capacity your suggestion.

Is it fair to say the LCMXO2280 is "beefier" than the iCE40, though it's a PLD and not an FPGA? If so then I think I may be sold on the XO.

TheSolarShed
I'm not familiar with the old XO range but XO2 spans the range fo sizes from CPLD to FPGA - the line is getting increasingly blurred these days.
Youtube channel:Taking wierd stuff apart. Very apart.
Mike's Electric Stuff: High voltage, vintage electronics etc.
Day Job: Mostly LEDs
 

jucole

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 10:40:42 pm »
Sounds familiar! a couple of years ago I bought 21 of these unused in tubes at a ridiculously cheap price on Ebay;  and I had exactly the same idea!   I managed to get the software but the programmers are fairly hard to come across, and if you do find one you need to get hold of the right programming adapter.

So in the end I got a Altera Cyclone II bare bones board with a byte blaster programmer;  I watched some utubes on verilog and then downloaded the Quartus web edition; it took me a whole weekend to push a button to make a led come on but when it did - I literally couldn't sleep for a whole week just thinking of the cool things I could make!

But go for a modern FPGA as the tools are much better than old stuff.

I still have the Actel's; maybe I could set them in clear epoxy and make a novelty table mat! :-)
 

Offline amyk

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2013, 11:05:32 am »
I can see why you'd want to reuse them... they're not cheap! http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/A1020B-PL84C/A1020B-PL84C-ND/2857277 :o
 

Offline millerb

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2013, 11:49:17 am »
If you get the iCEBlink board, make sure to have some 2.54mm header strips laying around because the board isn't populated.

Also, if you're using 64 bit Windows, the tool chain won't find your license key, and you'll have to set an environment variable manually. (I wasted a few hours trying to figure that one out)

I think this is the support link for that issue: http://www.latticesemi.com/support/faqs/details.cfm?id=1194

Or, at least that's the environ var I had to set. Also had to stuff the license.dat file they emailed me into a directory where icecube2 was installed...
 

Offline edavid

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2013, 04:37:12 pm »
I can see why you'd want to reuse them... they're not cheap! http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/A1020B-PL84C/A1020B-PL84C-ND/2857277 :o

That's the hi-rel version... when better SRAM based FPGAs became available, the only niche for Actel's antifuse technology was hi-rel/space.
 

Offline vvanders

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2013, 05:38:51 pm »
I actually just got the XP2 board the other day and I think I like it a bit more than the MachXO/2 boards:

http://www.latticesemi.com/products/developmenthardware/developmentkits/xp2brevia2developmentkit.cfm

It's got a dedicated 50Mhz osc, 1mbit parallel sram and rs232 right out of the gate for $50. You have to spend a fair bit more to get that in the MachXO/2 boards oddly enough.
 

Offline TheSolarShed

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Re: Reusing Actel A1020B FPGAs
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2013, 10:15:29 pm »
I still have the Actel's; maybe I could set them in clear epoxy and make a novelty table mat! :-)
I like that idea! It'd make for interesting coffee coasters to set various antique electronic components in clear epoxy. :P

I remembered that I also salvaged another FPGA from one of the module boards. This time it's a flash FPGA; an Altera FLASHlogic. But I've decided to just buy an FPGA development board.

I actually just got the XP2 board the other day and I think I like it a bit more than the MachXO/2 boards:

http://www.latticesemi.com/products/developmenthardware/developmentkits/xp2brevia2developmentkit.cfm

It's got a dedicated 50Mhz osc, 1mbit parallel sram and rs232 right out of the gate for $50. You have to spend a fair bit more to get that in the MachXO/2 boards oddly enough.
Unfortunately, I can't get that locally. My toss up is between the iCEblink40-HX1K and the MachXO 2280. The MachXO being a PLD with 2280 LUTs/1140 macrocells (so the webpage says) and the iCE40 with 1280 logic elements. I don't know what the difference is but as far as I can tell, PLDs use macrocells and FPGAs use LUTs. So is the MachXO an FPGA and a PLD? Why must the line be so fuzzy?!

If you get the iCEBlink board, make sure to have some 2.54mm header strips laying around because the board isn't populated.
Thanks for the tip, I recently purchased plenty of those by coincidence. :)

TheSolarShed :scared:
« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 10:25:56 pm by TheSolarShed »
 


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