Altera CPLD development board

Well! I’ve been looking to further develop my VGA controller on my CPLD. So as per, I’ve been researching into methods and what not and found out that 800×600 at a refresh rate of 72Hz uses a standard pixel clock of 50MHz! This is obviously in comparison to many other VGA modes which seem to use 25.175MHz. I’ve ran the VGA controller at 25MHz and there isn’t a massive problem but I’d rather run it in one of the standard VGA modes!

I had written my tasty 800×600 VHDL code and my monitor was syncing with it fine so I then proceeded to add colour which wasn’t working! To see if it was my RGB outputs, I decided that I would replace the 3.3v Red output with a standard 3.3v rail. Somewhere however along the way, I must’ve created a short, causing the onboard AMS1117-3.3 regulator to burn out! Obviously gutted, I scoured through my electronic components and to my surprise actually managed to find the exact same regulator from a previous project! Eager as ever, I unsoldered the burnt out IC and replaced it with my new one to find that one power was applied, it burnt out too! Argh!

So to see if it was a problem with the actual CPLD IC (Altera EPM240T100C5), I applied 3.3v through a 10 ohm resistor from my STM32F0 discovery board. Voila! 0v present where 3.3v should be present. I’d blown the CPLD (I still don’t have a clue how, however)!

Annoyed, I began my search for a new CPLD development board. I’ve been considering upgrading to a better platform anyway as this one literally had one onboard LED so this seemed like a prime opportunity. After scouring the internet (and eBay), I wanted one that had some pretty cool inclusive features, most importantly, a VGA socket! For one of the first times in my life, I couldn’t really find anything suitable on eBay within my price range (<£30, I’m a cheapskate!) so I averted my eyes elsewhere. After a quick google search, I found a website with lots of different cheap FPGA platforms on (http://goo.gl/iMAKwe), which aided my in my search considerably – mostly finding boards which I could get in the UK. After reading down, I was more drawn to the Altera branded products as my previous CPLD was Altera and I’ve already got the IDE set up, having just become acquainted with ModelSim (which if I’m honest sucks…).

Searching down the list, I found WayEngineer, what seems like an asian website selling asian products to us westerners at cheap cheap prices! After searching Altera, I found a brilliant board (http://goo.gl/8qeXud) featuring:

  • Onboard Buzzer
  • 8×8 LED Matrix
  • 8x 7 segment LED display
  • VGA socket
  • RS232 suport with the MAX232
  • Output DAC (DAC0832)
  • USB TTL adapter
  • Parallel port ByteBlaster (although I’ll be using my standard USB byteblaster!)
  • I2C EEPROM
  • 8x DIP switch
  • 21x Push to make switches (16 of which arranged in a 4×4 array, useful!)
  • Onboard 50MHz and 12MHz crystals
  • Integrated regulator (fancy that, another AMS1117 😉
  • 12x LEDs arranged in a square fashion (3x on each side)

This level of functionality for the £27.99 (p+p included) to me is a no brainer and I snapped one up instantly!

Unfortunately however, with it being the same as nearly every asian product I buy, I’m going to have to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive! This however isn’t a massive problem and I’m just happy I could get it for such a great price.

Once I get it however, the HVidia Hadeon®©™ can proceed!

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