Since my days at the university, I've liked FPGAs. They're extremely fast and malleable, and unlike microprocessors you can do multiple things in parallel. It's also quite easy to download ready-made pieces of 'hardware' like CPU-cores, network cards, sound chips etc from various sites around the Internet. I never found a nice project to polish my VHDL skills with, though.

Recently, the company I work at decided to clean up storage and throw away some broken PCBs which were used in one of our previous generations of products. Luckily, they knew I might be interested, so I got to take my pick first.

One of the boards I ended up with was a small PCB that used to connect to a LCD, a PATA interface, some analog signals and an interface containing a lot of LVDS-signals. To control all that, there was a XC2V1000; a somewhat aged but quite large Xilinx Virtex2 FPGA. Because most of its IO ended up on the various headers, this board could be easily re-used as an FPGA development board.

Ok, I had a FPGA-board, but I didn't quite know what to develop with it. Luckily, the Internet is full of creativity, and I knew about a site called FPGA Arcade which offers a few recreations of old consoles and arcade games in VHDL and Verilog. I decided it would be a good first test to port one of those to the board, so I downloaded Pacman and started hacking in I/O-definitions, modifying clock values and so on. A bit later I had it working, using only a 3v3-regulator, some resistors and a few connectors as extra components. I also hacked together a Playstation-controller-interface so I wouldn't have to wire individual buttons to the board:

So the first step was quite easy. Now what? Perhaps try some other arcade games?

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