The rise of the FPGA

Issue 26 of HackSpace Magazine is out! 

I wrote a column about how about open source FPGA tools developed by Claire Wolf, David Shah, and more have made FPGAs more accessible than ever before to makers and hackers:

The Rise of the FPGA

FPGAs have been the talk of the town at many of this year’s hacker conferences. At CrowdSupply’s Teardown there were workshops on two different FPGA boards, the IceBreaker and the Fomu, and Hackaday’s SuperCon based their conference badge on an FPGA. But what exactly is an FPGA, and why are they so hot right now?

Download the free PDF of the issue from the HackSpace website and subscribe if you enjoy the content.  It is one of my favorite magazines!

I only had 400 words for the column so here’s some additional notes:

The rise of the FPGA

The Amp Hour podcast: Keyzermas Vacation

Episode #472 – Keyzermas Vacation

Jeff Keyzer of joins Chris and Dave to talk about learning 3D CAD, attending a wide range of conferences, long lead time components, and plans for learning in the new year.

Hip hip hooray for Keyzermas Vacation!

  • Jeff has been attending a lot of events in 2019
  • Jeff is no longer at Valve, since February of 2019.
  • He’s been spending his time learning Solidworks and updating his Altium knowledge/license.
The Amp Hour podcast: Keyzermas Vacation

Interview: FieldKit Team the Morning After Winning the 2019 Hackaday Prize

We caught up with Shah Selbe and Jacob Lewallen the morning after their project, FieldKit, won the Hackaday Prize. FieldKit is an open-source field-based research data collection platform. Which is basically a lot of fancy words for saying it’s a system for collecting sensor data in the field without being snagged by the myriad of problems associated with putting electronics in remote locations. It’s a core project of Conservify, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower conservation research.

via Interview: FieldKit Team the Morning After Winning the 2019 Hackaday Prize — Hackaday


Interview with Matt Berggren of Autodesk on EAGLE and more

The wonderful electronics podcast The Amp Hour recently interviewed  Matt Berggren of Autodesk about EAGLE and more:

Screenshot from 2019-12-21 13-04-30.png

#471 – An Interview with Matt Berggren


Interview with Matt Berggren of Autodesk on EAGLE and more

Hackaday Supercon badge boots Linux using SDRAM cartridge

Jacob Creedon designed an a cartridge board that adds 32MB of SDRAM to the Hackaday Supercon badgeMichael Welling just assembled a version of the PCB made with the OSH Park “After Dark” black FR-4 service:

The addition of SDRAM provides enough memory to boot Linux on a RISC-V soft-core in the ECP5 FPGA on the badge.  Here’s a screenshot of Linux running:

Read more about “Team Linux on Badge” in this Hackaday post:


And finally, receiving the biggest applause was Linux-on-Badge: this team used all the badge hacking tricks in the book. The hardware component was a 32 MiB SDRAM cartridge by [Jacob Creedon]. The default badge SOC FPGA bitstream was entirely replaced in order to support a minimalist Linux. Much of the development was done on [Michael Welling]’s computer, guided by the precedence of a LiteX project putting Linux on the Radiona ULX3S. This is a true success story of Supercon collaboration as the team (including [Drew Fustini], [Tim Ansell], [Sean Cross], and many others) came together and worked late into nights, drawing from the massive body of collective expertise of the community.

Watch the demo during the Badge Hacking ceremony (jump to 17m 35s):


Note: click the “After Dark” checkbox if you want clear solder mask on black substrate


Demo of Linux-on-LiteX booting on the badge:

Wondering what LiteX is?

LiteX is a FPGA design/SoC builder that can be used to build cores, create SoCs and full FPGA designs

Hackaday Supercon badge boots Linux using SDRAM cartridge

Open Source Hardware column in Hackspace Magazine

I wrote about Open Source Hardware and the Open Hardware Summit 2020 in the December issue of HackSpace magazine.  If you don’t subscribe to the print edition, then you can download the free PDF.

This October, people all over the world celebrated Open Source Hardware Month with meet-ups, talks and workshops. The month kicked off with events at RAIT in Vienna (Austria) and SparkFun in Colorado (USA), followed by gatherings in Poland, Panama, Thailand, Japan, Ghana and more!

In total, there were 40 events in 14 different countries across five continents, showing us that the world of Open Source Hardware is expanding rapidly. But while many people in the maker community will have used some kind of Open Source Hardware technology — such as an Arduino — there is some confusion about what the term actually means.

Open Source Hardware column in Hackspace Magazine