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Xilinx XC2064—world’s first commercial FPGA—inducted into IEEE’s Chip Hall of Fame today

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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IEEE Spectrum has been rolling out the first inductees into its new Chip Hall of Fame this week and the Xilinx XC2064—the world’s first commercial FPGA—appeared in the Chip Hall of Fame today. Here’s the first paragraph of the writeup:


“Back in the early 1980s, chip designers tried to get the most out of each and every transistor on their circuits. But then Ross Freeman had a pretty radical idea. He came up with a chip packed with transistors that formed loosely organized logic blocks with connections that could be configured and reconfigured with software. As a result, sometimes a bunch of transistors wouldn’t be used—heresy!—but Freeman was betting that Moore’s Law would eventually make transistors so cheap that no one would care. He was right. To market his chip, called a field-programmable gate array, or FPGA, Freeman cofounded Xilinx. (Apparently, a weird concept called for a weird company name.)”



The photo of the XC2064 used on this page is of a chip that’s sitting in my drawer at Xilinx. I purchased this chip from eBay a couple of years ago so I’d have a copy of the company’s earliest device. The date code on this XC2064 FPGA is early 1988, less than three years after the first devices rolled out of the fab.



Xilinx XC2064 IEEE Chip Hall of Fame photo.jpg

Xilinx XC2064--the world's first commercial FPGA--inducted into the IEEE Chip Hall of Fame today




The Xilinx XC2064 FPGA takes its place among some of the most famous, most important ICs ever created including the Fairchild μA741 op-amp, the Signetics 555 timer, Mostek’s MK4096 4Kbit DRAM, Intel’s 8088 microprocessor, MOS Technology’s 6502 microprocessor, Motorola’s MC68000 microprocessor, and the Zilog Z80 microprocessor. So the XC2064 is in very, very good company. It’s appropriate that this is the Independence Day weekend here in the US because these are all truly revolutionary ICs.


Note: For true history buffs, I also have a photo of two early XC2064 engineering samples in PLCC packages dated late in 1985:




XC2064 Engineering Sample ES001.jpg 


Early XC2064 FPGA engineering samples dated late 1985




Also for true history buffs, I’ve attached a PDF of the original XC2064 press release, dated November 1, 1985.