Saturday, January 08, 2005

Silly Scope - Digilent to the rescue!

So, I wander around thinking of how best to start prototyping my FPGA based silly scope. As much as I'd like to start designing my FPGA based super O-scope card PCB, I know I should build a breadboarded design. Well, a while ago when the Spartan3 was first released, I looked at the official Xilinx Spartan3 starter kit. From there I wandered to Digilent, the maker of the board and lots of add on boards for the hobbyist/student. My only disappointment was that it came with a 200K gate chip.

Well, I did a search. They now offer the same board with a 400K chip for $119 vs $99. Perfect.

Add in all their expansion boards (Wire wrap boards all the way up to 1MSPS D/A and A/D board), and you can probably get away with anything. I'm interested in the AD/DA board and their DIO5 computer addon board.

For a more compact version of that, and cheaper, Nuhorizons has their Spartan3 Development Board. A little cheaper, too.

Now, for the more extensive design work, I've looked at two different boards. One is made by AVnet. It's got a 1.5M gate FPGA on a PCI card. Nice, and it allows for a user to design direct access to the PCI bus in, bypassing any other work and allowing data to be dumped into main memory directly, greatly increasing capture bandwidth.

Another option is another Nuhorizons board, $450 for a 2M gate board designed for very high speed DSP. Fast, huge amount of space in the FPGA fabric, has ready made cards for A/D (135MSPS at 14 bit works for me, still looking for the price). I'd love to get one. I'll hold on, though, we'll see what my FPGA musings bring first. I sure don't plan to spend any money on software anytime soon for this hobby. It's got dual Ethernet, CAN, low speed A/D and D/A (audio speed), LCD panel support. Hmmm... it's just about perfect for a central processor for my large exoskeleton/robotics project. Must contemplate...

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