June 1, 2022

FPGA - history and historic FPGA devices

I was going through a box of junk and found a bag with three small circuit boards with some Burr Brown parts and a Xilinx XC2064 device on each board.

It turns out that the XC2064 was the worlds first FPGA, being designed around 1984 and was the first product offered by Xilinx

The chip contains 64 logic blocks (CLB) and less than 1000 gates.

A person used an MSDOS program "XACT" to program it (the program sold for $12,000). The chip itself was larger than microprocessors being offered at the time. It was difficult to make and cost hundreds of dollars.

Moore's law

This is sometimes mis-cited as a claim that processor speed will increase in some way. That is not it at all. It was an observation made in 1965 that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years. It is not so much a "law" as an observation and a speculation about the future. People split hairs over whether it is still valid. Strictly speaking it is not. If you generalize it to a claim that transistor count increases in some kind of geometric fashion, it is still valid, but not at the pace observed back in 1965.

Gordon Moore by the way was cofounder of Fairchild and Intel and was for a time the CEO of Intel.

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Tom's Computer Info / tom@mmto.org