Tuesday, July 17, 2018

FPGAs, something new to play with.

Well something new for me anyway. These are technically obsolete parts that I'll be playing with but they were cheap and the software is still available.

I have an interest in vintage computers, mainly because I lived through the start up of the microcomputer revolution. And one of my favorite processors is the Motorola 6809. It's assemble language was easy to learn and it always reminded me of the C language in that I could think about my C programming and translate it into 6809 assembly language. Anyways, I have a few 6809 systems but recently found Grant Searle Multicomp board. It's an FPGA based board that can be programmed to be a 6809 system, a Z80 system or a 6502 system. I came across an opportunity to get a bare board cheap. So I ordered it and I've assembled most of it. While the various different systems are very cool my mind is stuck on the 6809. Now I've always wanted to learn about how to program FPGAs and now is my chance. First I'll build it, then run it with a simple ROM monitor, later get it running OS-9 (maybe Level II) and then I'll see where it goes from there. I'm pretty sure I have a steep learning curve but but that's nothing new. To help with this endeavor I have the Multicomp board and it's parts, with an Altera EP2C5, but I also picked up another Altera board with the EP2C8 (a few more pins and maybe some more space in the FPGA). I'm hoping that will be my learning lab while the other board will be my play thing.

So I'm playing with vintage computers, FPGAs (software defined hardware), working with Software Defined Networks, Virtual Machines, virtual environments (Docker containers), emulators, simulators (sim09, etc) and the Agile methodology. This is not a direction I would have expected when I started this journey in college. Strange days indeed.

PS: For those who may be wondering how this all fits in with home automation. All of these things are being used to build the custom parts of various sensors for my home automation devices and the control system. I just put the finishing touchs on the mytimeout node for Node-Red (though I still need the automated testing part) and I will begin to work on the RF/IR node based on the ESP8266. This will be the final part for the feature request from my wife, the TV sleep timer. There are still a few more details to work out but basically she can set the time, hit a button and then if she falls asleep watching TV everything will turn off in the proper order. My wife is very critical of my home automation and five 9s is at the low end limit of her tolerance.


Post a Comment

<< Home