A Modular Logic Analyzer For FPGAs

When working on a project, it’s incredibly helpful to be able to visualize the various signals in play. This is important when attempting to determine if what is supposed to be happening is actually happening. However, logic analyzers can be expensive, so a group from [Bruce Land]’s ECE5760 class developed their own hardware solution instead.

The primary idea behind the project is modularity. The basic building blocks of the logic analyser are coded in Verilog. They’re designed so that the number of channels and added functions can be mixed and match to suit the given purpose and the capabilities of the target FPGA platform. The team’s logic analyzer is also capable of decoding SPI and I2C in hardware, and has a graphical user interface running on an attached laptop for visualizing signals.

It’s a tidy build, and an excellent project to learn the fundamentals of both FPGA programming and the various communications protocols involved. [Bruce Land]’s classes are a hotbed of FPGA projects, from pokerbots to NES chiptune emulators. Video after the break.

4 thoughts on “A Modular Logic Analyzer For FPGAs

  1. Interesting but a lot of choices are puzzling:
    Hardware decoding: not terribly useful for spi and i2c as they are not terribly fast or complex. The only use case would be complex trigger (pattern/condition).
    GUI choice: why reinvent the wheel when you have sigrok?

    If there is somewhere you can innovate it’s trigger systems which are puny on most low cost analyzers.

  2. It makes sense to make your own independent projects. You can still contribute something later, if you think parts can be contributed.
    Improving only in big community projects can be frustrating, I think the people presenting the project do exactly the right thing. Have fun!

    The only thing I never like is when people want to “integrate you” (like the Borg — don’t reinvent the wheel) or it’s only about competition and replacing (Silicon Valley “disruption — I am better than you and will annihilate you, often with “younger” nonsense added). These mindsets take the fun out of any work.

    But this is exactly the kind of projects that make sense. Learning something while you do it, finding new things, and doing it your own way.

    That’s what hacking is all about.

  3. For me, the most surprising thing about the article was that Professor Land is still teaching at least one class.

    It was 4-5 years ago that one of his undergraduate advisees (who had come to work for the company I was working for at the time) said that he was retiring… Apparently they were wrong or I’m remembering incorrectly.

    Prof. Land was one of the best professors I had during my undergraduate career, ECE 476 was one of the most valuable and useful courses I ever took. (Back in the day, the ECE department hadn’t yet added that trailing 0 to all of their course codes…)

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