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There are several factors of using FPGA and microcontroller, but what are the differences of them? What are the advantages of them? Check the passage and read the content we prepare for more information.

WHAT IS A MICROCONTROLLER?

A microcontroller (MCU) is basically a small computer. It has all the same elements as other computers, including a central processing unit (CPU), some random-access memory (RAM) and input and output devices. Unlike a desktop computer, which can run thousands of different programs, a microcontroller is a special-purpose device that performs one program.

It’s made to do one thing repeatedly, automatically or at user request. It’s embedded in some other device, whether a consumer, manufacturer, medical or other type of product. It runs on low energy — its power consumption is measurable in milliamps. As a result, microcontrollers tend to be affordable. The device in which it’s embedded can vary greatly in cost, however.

You find microcontrollers all around you in your everyday life. Here are a few of the consumer devices in which a microcontroller is embedded:

· Keyboards

· Monitors

· Printers

· Copiers

· Fax machines

· Telephones

· Television remote controls

· Microwaves

· Washers and dryers

· Lawn sprinklers

· Children’s toys

In addition to consumer items, microcontrollers are also embedded within the following devices:

· Traffic lights

· Car engine control systems

· Power tools

· Implantable medical devices

These are only a few examples — microcontrollers are embedded within all kinds of devices we rely on in modern society. Each microcontroller has a specific, repetitive purpose. It can operate automatically using a feedback control system, as you would find with traffic lights. Or, it can operate at user input signals, like flipping a switch or pressing a button. This latter concept is true for your microwave, laundry machine and television remote control.

WHAT IS A FIELD PROGRAMMABLE GRID ARRAY?

A field-programmable gate or grid array is a little more complicated than a microcontroller. Most of the time, a chip comes pre-programmed. As the user, you can change software, but not hardware. This brings us to the defining element of an FPGA — you, the user, can configure its hardware after purchase.

Engineers find this especially useful for prototyping their own application-specific integrated circuits. In fact, Intel uses a form of FPGA to streamline their own prototyping process. FPGAs are also useful because the devices in which FPGAs are embedded can be altered without needing all-new hardware.

Per the example given by “FPGAs for Dummies,” regulations might change to demand that vehicle rear-view cameras operate faster. If these cameras run on FPGAs, manufacturers can make this change without installing expensive, all-new hardware. They can simply reprogram the FPGA in each car’s rear-view camera. Cars that are already on the road can be altered rather than rendered obsolete.

How Does It Work?

FPGAs have an “array” of integrated hardware circuits — these arrays are groups of programmable logic blocks. During manufacturing, an FPGA has not been configured to have any particular function. Instead, the user can configure it and later reconfigure it however they choose.

The user does this using a hardware description language (HDL). An FPGA has logic blocks, like AND and XOR, which the user can piece together with interconnects. Modern FPGAs have many logic gates and RAM blocks, so they can accommodate complex computations. Some FPGAs also have analog-to-digital converters or digital-to-analog converters, similar to field-programmable analog arrays (FPAAs).

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