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Hardware

We created QNICE-FPGA as a portable System-on-a-Chip, so that it should be possible to synthesize it for any suitably powerful FPGA board.

This folder contains the FPGA vendor specific and board (hardware instance) specific files necessary to synthesize the QNICE-FPGA bitstream. Currently we are supporting these vendor/board/toolchain combinations:

  • Xilinx: Nexys4 DDR and Nexys A7 using Vivado or ISE
  • Xilinx: MEGA65 using Vivado or ISE

Scroll down to the respective section to learn more about a particular supported combination. And if your hardware is not included here, please read on at the section "General advice for porting", which is at the very bottom of this README.md.

The structure of this folder is:

<fpga-vendor>/<board (hardware)>/<toolchain (IDE)>

Additionally there are hardware specific VHDL files in

vhdl/hw/<hardware name>

Nexys 4 DDR and Nexys A7

Nexys4_DDR_Img

Currently, our reference development board is a Nexys 4 DDR, which has been retired by Nexys but you can still get it on eBay. As far as we know, the sucessor Nexys A7 is compatible, so we currently assume, that you can use the Nexys 4 DDR files to also synthesize for the Nexys A7.

The top file for this platform is vhdl/hw/nexys4ddr/env1.vhd.

For a quickstart, you can download the bitstream here. If you just want to use your Nexys board as a Q-TRIS Arcade machine, then you can download this bitstream.

ISE 14.7

We created the original QNICE-FPGA using Xilinx' ISE 14.7. The free ISE WebPACK license is sufficient for working with QNICE-FPGA. Open the project hw/xilinx/nexys4ddr/ISE/env1.xise to synthesize using ISE.

Vivado 2019.2 (or newer)

Vivado is the successor of ISE. Even though ISE can still be downloaded for free from Xilinx as the time of writing, Vivado is the way to go when developing for Xilinx FPGAs. So we made a port of QNICE-FPGA to Vivado, which you can download here; we recommend to use the "HLx Editions" with the free Vivado WebPACK license. Open the project hw/xilinx/nexys4ddr/Vivado/qnice_nexys.xpr to synthesize using Vivado.

MEGA65

MEGA65_Img

The MEGA65 is the 21st century realization of the Commodore 65 heritage: A complete 8-bit computer running around 50x faster than a C64 while being highly compatible. Go to mega65.org to learn more about it.

The MEGA65 is an open source / open hardware project available here on GitHub. It supports multiple so called "Cores", which means that you can upload your own hardware to MEGA65's FPGA, which is a Xilinx Artix-7 in a xc7a100tfgg484 package.

Hint: ISE or Vivado bitstreams (.bit files) need to be converted into MEGA65 Cores (.cor files) by using the tools/bit2core tool. The bitstream needs to be in a specific format as described here to work as a Core on the MEGA65.

For a quickstart, you can download the ready-made QNICE-FPGA Core for MEGA65 here. If you want to use the MEGA65 as a Q-TRIS Arcade machine, then download this Core. Have a look at doc/README.md to learn how to install and run the QNICE-FPGA core on the MEGA65.

ISE 14.7

Use the project hw/xilinx/MEGA65/ISE/QNICE-MEGA65.xise to synthesize for MEGA65 using ISE. The bitstream format is already configured to be compatible with MEGA65 Cores. Right-click "Generate Programming File" in ISE's process view and choose "Process Properties" to learn more.

The top file for MEGA65 using ISE is vhdl/hw/MEGA65/MEGA65_ISE.vhd.

Currently, HyperRAM is deactivated when synthesizing with ISE. Please have a look at doc/constraints.txt to learn more.

Vivado 2019.2 (or newer)

Use the project hw/xilinx/MEGA65/Vivado/MEGA65.xpr to synthesize for MEGA65 using Vivado. The bitstream format is already configured to be compatible with MEGA65 Cores. Look at the XDC file, section "## Configuration and Bitstream properties" to learn more.

The top file for MEGA65 using Vivado is vhdl/hw/MEGA65/MEGA65_Vivado.vhd.

MEGA65 board revisions and hardware versions

For the QNICE @ MEGA65 release at hand, we used the very first MEGA65 prototype computer, which has the board revision 2 (MEGA65R2). There where only a couple of those prototypes produced, so you will probably have a newer board revision: The first publicly available MEGA65 computer will be the MEGA65 DevKit with board revision 3 (MEGA65R3). And the final product for the market might have an even higher board revision.

For learning more about how QNICE-FPGA supports the different MEGA65 hardware versions, have a look at doc/README.md.

General advice for porting

  • In general, the code is written in a portable way and therefore is suitable as a good starting point for porting the QNICE-FPGA implementation for Digilent's Xilinx Virtex-7 based board "Nexys4 DDR": Create two new folders according to the folder structure mentioned above. Copy this top file into your own folder: vhdl/hw/nexys4ddr/env1.vhd. You might want to rename it to match your hardware's or port's name. Start modifying this top file to fit your needs.

  • If you are not on Xilinx hardware, then the first thing you might want to do is to comment out everything related to the Xilinx MMCME based generation of the 25.175 MHz VGA pixelclock in env1.vhd. Even though the 25.175 MHz pixelclock generates a better and sharper image on most displays, the 25 MHz version is also absolutely OK and it is more portable, as it only relies on a simple clock divider to generate the pixelclock. So you might want to comment out the UNISIM library and the MMCME instantiation that generates the signal clk25MHz and comment in the clock divider process generate_clk25MHz : process(SLOW_CLOCK) instead. Do not forget to set appropriate timing constraints for the clock in the IDE or development environment of your choice; TS_clk25MHz in env1.ucf might be an inspiration.

  • In the file hw/xilinx/nexys4ddr/ISE/env1.ucf you will find advice about how to do the mapping from the NETs to the hardware's pins and what kind of timing constraints you might want to use.

  • Make sure that you connect at least the IO pins for PS2, VGA, UART and the two switches (SWITCHES<0> and SWITCHES<1>).

  • The system is designed to run at 50 MHz. Other speeds would break various timings (see also TODO.txt to learn more). env1 expects to receive a 100 MHz clock, which it then divides down to the 50 MHz clock SLOW_CLOCK.

  • EAE's combinatorial division networks take longer than the regular 50 MHz clock period, so be sure to specify a timing constraint for your specific hardware/toolchain combination. hw/xilinx/nexys4ddr/ISE/env1.ucf can be used as an inspiration.

  • env1_globals.vhd contains several important global constants. You can for example define the content of the ROM there by changing ROM_FILE. One application for this is to transform QNICE-FPGA into a "Q-TRIS Arcade Machine" by using demos/q-tris.rom compiled with the define QTRIS_STANDALONE. Another one might be to replace the "operating system" that we call "Monitor" (monitor/monitor.rom) by something else. You can also use env1_globals.vhd to reduce the amount of registers (the size of the register file) by changing SHADOW_REGFILE_SIZE. But be aware that some QNICE programs may fail as the QNICE ISA demands the amount of shadow registers to be 256.