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Addressing MCU GPIO scaling wall with FPGAs

Posted: 14 Sep 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MCU GPIO  FPGA  electronics application 

Microcontrollers, in many ways, are the indispensable engines of our world. With hundreds of billions of them in use, MCUs play a variety of different but equally important roles in almost every electronics application imaginable. Inexpensive, easy to use and well understood, MCUs are an integral part of a design engineer's toolkit—and the design engineer can choose from thousands of controllers and controller variations.

But controllers do run into limits. The GPIO ports available for a microcontroller are usually limited in number. Many applications require more ports than are available on the microcontroller. And because GPIOs are used for a number of functions like serving as a gateway to numerous peripherals and buses, managing LEDs and interrupt sources, oftentimes more is better.

FPGAs, however, can be deployed to overcome this barrier by adding four 8bit ports to any 8bit microcontroller. With the broad IP libraries available from FPGA vendors today, it's a relatively straightforward endeavor. Take the 8051s soft microcontroller core. It can be configured as an 8bit microcontroller, without sacrificing power budget, cost or board real estate.

View the PDF document for more information.

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