Arty FPGA 02: Clocks, Counting, & Colour

Arty FPGA 02: Clocks, Counting, & Colour

Welcome back to my FPGA tutorial series with the Digilent Arty dev board and Verilog. In this second part we're going to use the 100 MHz clock on the Arty board to control the LEDs. We can obviously use the clock to flash the LEDs on and off, but the clock also allows us to control the brightness of the LEDs using a technique called pulse width modulation (PWM). PWN is commonly used in digital circuits to control the speed of motors as well as the brightness of lights (for example in the backlight of LCD screens). Finally we'll make use of PWM to control the colour of the RGB LEDs.

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Arty FPGA 01: Hello World with Verilog & Vivado

Arty FPGA 01: Hello World with Verilog & Vivado

This Time to Explore tutorial series provides an introduction to development using FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). On a microcontroller or PC you write software to run on an existing CPU. With an FPGA you develop the hardware itself at the logic level. This makes FPGAs uniquely flexible and powerful: especially when dealing with complex or parallel tasks and high-speed I/O such as networking and video. 

However, FPGAs are more than just a faster way to do what you already do; they're a fundamentally different tool that can solve many problems that would otherwise be impractical. Different materials have different properties: metal is not simply shiny plastic it has its own strengths and weaknesses. The same applies to FPGAs and microcontrollers: they can be used for some of the same purposes, but are fundamentally different. It's difficult to convey this in words: you really do need to experiment with FPGAs yourself to appreciate what they can do.

No prior experience of FPGA development is required to follow these tutorials, but basic knowledge of programming concepts is assumed. If you can write a simple program in Python, Ruby, or JavaScript then you shouldn't have any trouble with this course.

Finally, I find working with FPGAs gives me a sense of delight so often lacking in modern software development. There's something deeply satisfying about designing at the hardware level, be it drawing graphics on a screen, producing sound from a speaker, or even implementing your own arcade game from scratch. I hope you find these tutorials useful and have fun experimenting with FPGAs.
 

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