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FPGA Full Form

What Is The Full Form Of FPGA?

The full form of FPGA is Field Programmable Gate Array.

An FPGA is an IC (Integrated Circuit) programmed for performing customized operations for a specified application. A designer or customer can configure it after manufacturing, thus termed field-programmable. FPGA has thousands of gates, and an HDL (hardware description language) similar to the one used for an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) usually specifies its configuration. Earlier, circuit diagrams defined the specifications of the configuration. Now it is increasingly rare because of the advent of automation tools of electronic design.

FPGAs contain an assemblage of programmable logic blocks along with a hierarchy of reconfigurable interconnects. These help the blocks wire together just like many logic gates inter-wired in various configurations. FPGAs can start SW (system software) development simultaneously with HW (hardware). They allow different system partitioning (HW and SW) trials before the final freezing of the system architecture and also facilitate system performance simulations during the early phases of the development. Thus, they have a striking role in the development of embedded systems.

History of FPGA

  • The industry of FPGA sprouted from PROM (programmable read-only memory) and PLDs (programmable logic devices).
  • One could program both PROMs and PLDs in batches in the field (field-programmable) or in a factory. But the programmable logic used to be hard-wired between the logic gates.
  • Altera, in 1984, delivered the EP300- the industry’s first reprogrammable logic device.
  • Ross Freeman and Bernard Vonderschmitt, Xilinx co-founders, invented the first field-programmable gate array in 1985 that was commercially viable– the XC2064.
  • It had 64 CLBs (configurable logic blocks), with two three-input LUTs (lookup tables).
  • From 1985 to the mid-1990s, Xilinx and Altera quickly grew. Actel (now Microsemi) began to serve about 18% of the market by 1993.
  • By 2013, Actel (10%), Xilinx (36%), and Altera (31%) represented approximately 77% of the FPGA market together.
  • FPAs grew rapidly in the 1990s- both in the volume of production and circuit sophistication.
  • Telecommunications and networking started using FPGAs in the early 1990s. It also found its way into automotive, consumer, and industrial applications at the end of the decade.
  • Microsoft started using FPGAs in 2014. In 2018, they began expanding FPGAs across Azure cloud computing platforms and other data center workloads.

Architecture of FPGA

  • FPGA has thousands of key elements called CLBs (Configurable Logic Blocks) surrounded by fabrics (a system of programmable interconnects).
  • A fabric directs the I/O blocks interface between the external device and FPGA and signal between CLBs.
  • A Logic Block consists of Full Adders, Multiplexers, D flip flop, and a LUT (lookup table). It is the fundamental building block of FPGA.
  • The LUTs determine the output of any given input.
  • 4-6 input bits LUTs are widely used. They can also go up to 8 bits with further experiments. The D flip flop also stores the LUT output.

Types of FPGA

FPGAs have various applications. Based on how someone uses it, here’s how one can classify it:

  • High-End FPGAs – The gate density is high in these FPGAs. Thus, they are more complex than the mid-range. They exhibit better performance than low-end and mid-range FPGAs.
  • Low-End FPGAs – These FPGAs consume less power than the high-end and mid-range ones. They are also less complex because the number of gates is less.
  • Mid-Range FPGAs – These FPGAs consume less power than high-end and more power than low-end FPGAs. They have more gates than the low-end, and thus, are more complex. They help in maintaining a balance between cost and performance.

Applications of FPGA

  • Image processing in SDRs
  • Defense equipment
  • ASIC prototyping
  • Wireless communications like WCDMA, WiMAX, etc.
  • High-performance computers
  • Different equipment used for diagnosis
  • Equipment used in therapy
  • Consumer electronics
  • Residential set-top boxes, etc.
  • Flat-panel displays

Advantages of FPGA

  • FPGA can handle parallel processing.
  • It provides better performance when compared to a general CPU.
  • It is cost-efficient.
  • They help you in finishing your product development in a very short time. You can release them in the market shortly without much hassle.

Disadvantages of FPGA

  • It consumes more power.
  • The programmers have no control over power optimization.
  • One can only use an FPGA when the production is low.
  • The programming involved is not very simple like that of C programming.

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