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University EECS programs can now dissect MIPS RISC processor RTL in depth, using a Digilent Nexys 4 board and an Artix-7 FPGA

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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Imagination Technologies has revolutionized the academic study of RISC processor architecture by creating the MIPSfpga program, which specifically provides university CS and EECS departments with “free and open access to a fully-validated, current generation MIPS CPU in a complete package” according to this week’s announcement. A Stanford University team led by Dr. John Hennessy developed the original MIPS 32-bit RISC processor ISA and architecture in the early 1980s—very early days for RISC machines. The processor core in the MIPSfpga program is a contemporary core, a simplified version of Imagination Technologies’ MIPS microAptiv processor core. Microchip Technology employs a somewhat different version of this processor core in its PIC32MZ microcontroller family.


If you’re going to study processor architecture, you need to be able to look at, poke, modify, and experiment with the RTL code—and the MIPSfpga program allows this within a sandbox that includes the Digilent Nexys 4 FPGA board, which in turn is based on a Xilinx Artix-7 100T FPGA.



Digilent Nexys4 FPGA Board based on the Xilinx Artix-7 100T FPGA.jpg


Digilent Nexys 4 FPGA board, based on a Xilinx Artix-7 100T FPGA




Several academic institutions including Harvey Mudd College, Imperial College London, University College London, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) are already registered MIPSfpga program licensees. The Imagination University Programme has an alliance with the Xilinx University Program and these programs are jointly running two one-day workshops for academic faculty members taking place on May 13 and 14 at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. The workshop entails hands-on activities with the MIPSfpga core and Digilent Nexys 4 board. Click here for more workshop details. You’ll need to bring a laptop loaded with the free Xilinx Vivado Design Suite WebPack Edition tools and Imagination’s Codescape MIPS SDK, free online edition.


Imagination Technologies plans to expand this university program beyond MIPS processors, to its PowerVR graphics processors and FlowCloud IoT technology.

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