Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology has been in commercial development since the early 1980s but has recently been gaining market strength and as such technology has improved and costs have reduced. It is now possible for students or enthusiasts to purchase budget development kits. Market leaders Xilnx and Altera even provide freely available design software.
FPGAs are essentially programmable semiconductor devices that work in a similar way to many Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs). The architecture typically consists of an array of logic blocks, routing channels and external I/O connections, all of which can be configured in the field. Some also have built in fixed features on the die such as RAM, EPROM or even microprocessors.
This can have an advantage over general purpose processors as the required application is implemented in hardware instead of software and in theory the time cost of many processes can be reduced to simply the propagation delay of the gates inside. Modern FPGAs are electronically reconfigurable and can be reprogrammed to fulfil a variety of tasks. The programmed logic is described as an IP Core and is usually written in a Hardware Description Language, although many design software packages include a graphical ‘building block’ interface meaning designers will not often have to actually write out the code.


By the nature of programmable logic, FPGAs are exceptionally good at multiplying. It is very easy to produce numerous dedicated multiplier engines on a single chip. As it is done at a logic level design base, it is also possible to have these engines operate in parallel, which is one of the greatest advantages over a conventional application specific DSP. This means the same calculations can be done at a slower clock frequency, which is good for both processing performance and power requirements. As the RADAR correlation method requires a great number of FFTs which in turn require many multiplications, FPGAs have emerged as a good way to provide fast signal processing for many applications.

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