Richard W.M. Jones: Playing with PicoRV32 on the iCE40-HX8K FPGA Breakout Board (part 1)

News - NETCreator - 2018-03-17 13:45:43

It’s now possible to get a very small 32 bit RISC-V processor onto the reverse-engineered Lattice iCE40-HX8K FPGA using the completely free toolchain Project IceStorm toolchain. That’s what I’ll be looking at in this series of two articles.

I bought my development board from DigiKey for a very reasonable £41.81 (including tax and next day delivery). It comes with everything you need. This FPGA is very low-end [datasheet (PDF)], containing just 7680 LUTs, but it does have 128 kbits of static RAM, and the board has an oscillator+PLL that can generate 2-12 MHz, a few LEDs and a bunch of GPIO pins. The board is programmed over USB with the supplied cable. The important thing is the bitstream format and the probable chip layout have been reverse-engineered by Clifford Wolf and others. All the software to drive this board is available in Fedora:

dnf install icestorm arachne-pnr yosys emacs-verilog-mode

My first job was to write the equivalent of a “hello, world” program — flash the 8 LEDs in sequence. This is a good test because it makes sure that I’ve got all the tools installed and working and the Verilog program is not too complicated.

// -*- verilog -*-
// Flash the LEDs in sequence on the Lattice iCE40-HX8K.

module flash (input clk, output reg [7:0] leds);
   // Counter which counts upwards continually (wrapping around).
   // We don't bother to initialize it because the initial value
   // doesn't matter.
   reg [18:0] counter;
   // This register counts from 0-7, incrementing when the
   // counter is 0.  The output is wired to the LEDs.
   reg [2:0] led_select;

   always @(posedge clk) begin
      counter <= counter + 1;

      if (counter[18:0] == 0) begin
         led_select <= led_select + 1;

   // Finally wire each LED so it signals the value of the led_select
   // register.
   genvar i;
   for (i = 0; i < 8; i=i+1) begin
      assign leds[i] = i == led_select;      
endmodule // flash

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The fully working example is in this repo:

In part 2 I’ll try to get PicoRV32 on this board.

Source: Fedora
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