Digilent Spartan Board

Digilent Spartan 3 board

Digilent’s Xilinx Spartan 3 200K gate board with their low-cost download cable. We used the board to test the Altium code for their instrumented probing and logic analyzer. There were several pickup points on the counter circuit, plus the LEDs provided a simple visual confirmation that the counter was running.

In 2005 Digilent and Xilinx advertised the reasonably priced Spartan-3 Starter Kit board with several demonstration files that were on the Xilinx site. They also had a complete example with the MicroBlaze processor. We liked the board as it included a download cable with a single connector (not the array of separate wires like the Xilinx Parallel III cables), plus the edge connectors were on 0,1” centers.

Basil Esterhuysen used the board for his M.Tech to test imaging algorithms, and compare the hardware development effort against a similar software project on a desktop PC.

FPGA bitstream download screen

The screen dump shows the download via the Xilinx tools on a Windows PC.

Various Xilinx JTAG probes

Various probes for programming Xilinx devices: From left to right we have the Digilent probe that shipped with their S3 evaluation board, the Xilinx Parallel III cable, the Xilinx Parallel IV cable, and Altium’s JTAG probe.

Altium’s JTAG probe connected to a parallel port and provided a second JTAG instrumentation bus. The Altium probe is shown connected to the Digilent S3 evaluation board to test the logic analyzer instrumentation. The Altium probe could program both Altera and Xilinx devices, plus it supported Altium’s embedded instrumentation. We tested the Altium schematic capture for FPGAs plus linked in VHDL blocks. The Altium tools had their own downloaded, but called the Xilinx tools for routing and placement.