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Programmable Pile of Parts

FPGAs were conceived as “do anything” chips – Jacks of all Trades. Sure, they were crazy expensive for the number of effective gates they offered, they were a lot slower than custom logic doing the same task, and they drank copious quantities of coulombs getting the job done, but they could be programmed to do exactly your bidding. In a lot of designs, that made the FPGA the no-longer-missing link – the glue that connected the other components together. Need two incompatible interfaces bridged? Throw in an FPGA. Need an IO that wasn’t provided by your SoC? FPGA saves the … Read More → "Programmable Pile of Parts"

Zap! Zap! Zap! GlobalFoundries’ UHV 180nm Process Hits 700V

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. – Mark Twain

With all the media hype and heavy emphasis on the leading-edge semiconductor process technologies that will soon reach single-digit nanometer numbers, working-class process technologies often get no respect. That’s why I was so pleased to learn that GlobalFoundries announced at the end of May that the Ultra High Voltage (UHV) variant of its 180nm ASIC semiconductor process … Read More → "Zap! Zap! Zap! GlobalFoundries’ UHV 180nm Process Hits 700V"

Amazon and Google in the RTOS World

“One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Monkey see, monkey do. Google acquired Android years ago and turned it into a hugely successful tool for embedded programmers. Now, Amazon has taken over FreeRTOS. Will it become the next Android, a de facto standard for real-time software that wipes all the other RTOSen off the map?

Or is our embedded world just too chaotic for that?

Read More → "Amazon and Google in the RTOS World"

An MRAM Cell that Competes with SRAM?

Anything you do can be done efficiently or not. Whether it’s driving (mpg?), playing sportsball (results/energy spent?), or walking the dog (who pulls whom?), you can be efficient or not. Obviously, higher efficiency is better – assuming you care (sometimes spending energy worrying about efficiency can be inefficient). So… what if you could identify an improvement for an activity you care about that, by itself, would increase your efficiency by almost 50%?

That’s what Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) is Read More → "An MRAM Cell that Competes with SRAM?"

Maybe You Can’t Drive My Car (Yet) Part 2

“I’m completely operational and all my circuits are functioning normally.” — Hal 9000, “2001, A Space Odyssey”

We now have more information about the fatal crash of a self-driving Tesla Model X P100D electric vehicle in Mountain View, California last March, thanks to a preliminary accident report published by the US NTSB. Unfortunately, driver Walter Huang was killed in this crash.

First, … Read More → "Maybe You Can’t Drive My Car (Yet) Part 2"

PowerVR AX2185 Accelerates Neural Nets

“The greatest danger of AI is that people conclude too early that they understand it.” — Eliezer Yudkowsky

Sometimes accidental discoveries are the best ones. Teflon was supposed to be a refrigerant. The first heart pacemaker was designed as a measuring device, but inventor Wilson Greatbatch put in the wrong resistor value. And Play-Doh was created to clean wallpaper.

Turns out, the graphics card in your PC is surprisingly good – almost accidentally talented – at neural-net processing, cryptocurrency mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Who knew? With a … Read More → "PowerVR AX2185 Accelerates Neural Nets"

Computing at a Crossroads

Computing is at a crossroads. For decades, we have surfed the exponential wave of Moore’s Law, tuning and tweaking the various von Neumann architectures, resizing caches, redefining pipelines, debating RISC vs CISC, messing with memory structures, widening words, predicting branches, and generally futzing around until we reached a point where we could claim victory for another node. We have built various schemes for peripherals, processors, memory, and storage to communicate; bolted on accelerators for various purposes, and tested variations on a theme for specialized problems such as signal processing or graphics.

< … Read More → "Computing at a Crossroads"

Which Wireless Mesh Performs Best?

Those of you with kids, or those of you who were kids in the ‘60s with access to Disney movies, may recall the classic 101 Dalmatians. It’s a story about puppies stolen in the interest of a puppy-fur garment. Rough stuff, actually… Specifically, when the puppies are taken, the puppy’s parents engage a communication mechanism called, “The Twilight Bark.”

The parent dogs start barking, and the dogs within earshot hear the message and start barking it themselves. And those … Read More → "Which Wireless Mesh Performs Best?"

Arduino Swallows the Blue Pill

What’s this FPGA doing in my new Arduino Vidor? I think it’s the backstroke, sir. – Classic British Humor (paraphrased)

Among several new development boards announced by Arduino.cc just before the opening of the Bay Area Maker Faire in May, the Arduino Vidor 4000 stands out because it is so not an Arduino. It combines an Arm Cortex-M0+ processor, 8Mbytes of SDRAM, an Intel Cyclone 10CL016 low-end … Read More → "Arduino Swallows the Blue Pill"

Arm Unwraps Three New CPU/GPU Designs

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

Japanese-owned Arm is celebrating the start of summer with three new ’76-themed IP cores: Cortex-A76, Mali-G76, and Mali-V76. It’s almost like they’re declaring independence from the competition.

You know the drill. New Arm cores are faster, more power-efficient, and occasionally even smaller than their predecessors. That’s mostly true in this case as well. The new Cortex-A76 processor is better in every way compared to the -A75; Mali-G76 is faster and smarter than the -G72; and Mali-V76 is ridiculously more proficient than … Read More → "Arm Unwraps Three New CPU/GPU Designs"

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If integrating an embedded FPGA (eFPGA) into your ASIC or SoC design strikes you as odd, it shouldn'€™t. ICs have been absorbing almost every component on a circuit board for decades, starting with transistors, resistors, and capacitors '€” then progressing to gates, ALUs...
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