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FPGAs 1 - What are they?

FPGAs are programmable digital logic chips. What that means is that you can program them to do almost any digital function.

Here's the general workflow when working with FPGAs: Keep in mind that

Who makes FPGAs?

There are (at least) four companies making FPGAs in the world. The first two (Xilinx and Altera) hold the bulk of the market.


Xilinx has traditionally been the density and technology leader. Their general philosophy is to be very open about their devices architecture and to provide lots of (useful) features at the cost of a bit more complexity.


Altera's focus is on ease of use, with an HDL software suite that has traditionally been very good. Their silicon has a bit less features and their architecture is not as open.


Are FPGAs and CPLDs the same thing? No
Both are programmable digital logic chips and are made by the same companies. But they have different characteristics.

In general, FPGAs can contain large digital designs, while CPLDs can contain small designs only.

FPGAs vs. microcontrollers

Are FPGAs and microcontrollers the same thing? No

Microcontrollers have on-chip peripherals that also execute in parallel with their CPU. But they are still much less configurable than FPGAs.