Before you embark on the confusing journey of learning FPGA, or Field-Programmable Gate Array, there are a couple of things you need to know. Even professors and highly experienced engineers may struggle with grasping new concepts in the ever-changing world of programmable logic, so buckle up and do your research first.
Particularly to those planning on learning it solo, it’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Here is a handful of the best advice from the best designers out there to make it a bit easier for you to get started and understand the basics as soon as possible.
First: It will take a lot of time
Before we discuss anything else, though, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t something you’re going to learn quickly. It will take a lot of time and even more trials and errors so make sure, first of all, that you have time to spare for this kind of learning process.
Otherwise, it’s just going to another one of those dead-beat projects that you invest a lot of money and some time in only to give up before you’re even halfway.
It’s not to scare anyone away from learning the ropes but it’s better to be prepared for the challenge rather than being overly optimistic. Even those with years of experience in programming, logic, and circuit design will find FPGA wildly confusing at times.
It’s not because the teaching method isn’t right for you or because your mentor or professor doesn’t use the right kind of methods; it’s simply because it’s hard and it will take time.
Learn by having a real-life project
Learning by doing is highly applicable to this kind of field. Start by finding a decent computer, of course, and add a big display if you’re able to afford it. It just makes it a lot easier to keep track of everything and save some of your much-needed time. Next, you should decide on which operating system to use and select a vendor as well as an FPGA development board before you get started with the actual learning.
You could, of course, decide to design an FPGA-based development system yourself, but using one of the boards that are already set up will make it a lot easier for you. These boards will usually come with a great deal of supporting information and tutorials to get you started; have a look around before you decide on anything final.
It is also important to keep in mind that, as it always is with software packages, they will come with a fair share of updates and bug fixes that you should remember to download and install. If you don’t have the latest service packs installed, you’re going to set yourself up for a lot of trouble and headaches so take care of this right away.
Programmable logic may definitely scare some people off but remind yourself throughout the learning process that FPGA is still very hard to both learn and teach. Give yourself plenty of time, however, and try to find a mentor or teacher that is able to show you how things are done.
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