The Arduino IDE-Compatible Snō Module Looks Like a Great Way to Get Started with FPGAs

An FPGA (field-programmable gate array) is a device that enables you to actually program true circuits, instead of hard wiring or emulating…

Cameron Coward
2 years ago

An FPGA (field-programmable gate array) is a device that enables you to actually program true circuits, instead of hard wiring or emulating them. You can, for instance, program a vintage Z80 CPU in hardware — you’re not just emulating it in software. But, FPGAs tend to have a steep learning curve, and a big part of that is due to the difficultly of programming them. The Snō FPGA module from Alorium Technology is designed to make that easier by integrating an ATmega328 that’s compatible with the Arduino IDE.

The board contains a real FPGA chip — an Intel MAX 10 with 1,000 logic array blocks. That’s certainly not a record-breaking number, but it’s surprisingly good for the Snō’s very affordable $49 price. However, the real selling point here is the workflow for programming the FPGA. Through the Arduino IDE, you can use pre-programmed or downloadable XBs (Xcelerator Blocks) that configure the FPGA for functions like servo control and NeoPixel operation.

Of course, very few people buy FPGAs for simple pre-defined functions that could be handled easily by a microcontroller. That’s why the Snō FPGA module also allows you to program completely custom circuits to handle whatever task you want. Their OpenXLR8 workflow gives you the ability to program and upload new XBs for your own functions. Put it all together, and the system looks much more user friendly than the usual FPGA programming process.

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