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Al Williams

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Altera Development Board

March 14, 2011

I recently started building a simple circuit with some logic gates and it occurred to me that even as simple as it was, it was just as easy to use a CPLD. I fired up some EDA software, wrote about 20 lines of Verilog and I was good to go.

I could have used an FPGA, of course, but they are logically bigger and more expensive. In most cases (although not all) they also require a configuration memory and a bit of time to load the configuration on start up. So the CPLD was perfect for this application: inexpensive and based on flash so when you turn it on, its ready to go.

Most of the major FPGA vendors also make CPLDs (certainly Xilinx and Altera do, among others). And there are inexpensive options for getting started. Altera, for example, has a US$75 demo board that has a MAX V CPLD, a flash memory (and room for a serial EEPROM), and a 10MHz oscillator. It also has a touch sensitive button, a few push buttons, and two LEDs.

The major vendors also make their free software available (Quartus II, for Altera). So with a very low cost you can stop wiring up glue logic for your embedded designs and move it all to a CPLD!

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