What is a Field Programmable Gate Array?

A Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit consisting of programmable logic components and programmable interconnects. FPGAs can be programmed after manufacturing to provide custom functionality for a specific application or purpose. They are often used in embedded systems, such as those found in robotics, automotive, aerospace and medical applications. FPGAs allow for faster implementation times than traditional Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) due to their flexibility and re-programmability, allowing designers to quickly modify their designs based on the changing needs of their projects. Additionally, they offer lower power consumption compared to other types of processors which makes them attractive for low-power applications. As technology advances, FPGAs continue to become more powerful and versatile, making them a popular choice for a range of applications.

FPGAs can also be used in high-performance computing applications, such as machine learning and AI. By using reconfigurable logic blocks and distributed memory elements, they are able to achieve significantly higher performance than traditional architectures while still offering the flexibility and reprogrammability of an FPGA. Additionally, FPGAs have the advantage of being able to be changed through software updates over time, allowing for faster development cycles and more cost-effective upgrades compared to hardware changes.  As technology advances further, FPGAs will continue to become increasingly powerful solutions for a wide range of applications.

All in all, Field Programmable Gate Arrays are extremely versatile devices that offer a wide range of benefits and advantages over traditional integrated circuits. They are used in a variety of applications, ranging from low-power embedded systems to high-performance computing solutions. FPGAs are an attractive choice for many due to their reprogrammability and flexibility, as well as their lower power consumption compared to other processors. As technology advances further, they will continue to become increasingly powerful solutions with more capabilities and possibilities.

Simplified Example

A Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is like a toy car that you can change to be a toy plane. Imagine you have a toy car that you can change the wheels, body and even the engine to make it a toy plane. Similarly, a FPGA is a piece of computer hardware that you can program to perform different tasks like a computer processor but it is more flexible and can be reprogrammed to adapt to different applications. It's like a toy car that you can change it to do different things, depending on what you want it to do.

Who Invented the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)?

The term "Field Programmable Gate Array" (FPGA) was coined by Ross Freeman in 1984, while working for Xilinx. Freeman and Bernard Vonderschmitt co-founded Xilinx to develop and market FPGA technology. Freeman is often credited with inventing FPGAs.


Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA: This Field Programmable Gate Array from Xilinx has a 585K logic cell capacity and dedicated power savings logic, making it suitable for high-performance applications. It also offers integrated transceiver technology for low-power consumption and higher performance communication networks. 

Altera Stratix V FPGA: This advanced FPGA from Altera features up to 1MLE of programmable logic with an embedded HardCopy IV block that can be used to develop high-performance systems in the most cost effective manner possible. It is specifically designed with low static power consumption, offering great energy efficiency in applications such as networking, military and aerospace operations. 

Lattice iCE40 UltraPlus FPGA: This low-cost, high-density FPGA from Lattice has up to 76K programmable logic elements and is an ideal choice for applications such as IoT, mobile computing and wireless communication. It also features a unique instant-on technology that provides quick power-up with no configuration time needed. Furthermore, it has an integrated Power Management Unit for efficient power consumption in various systems.

  • Programmability: The ability of a technology, system, or device to be controlled and automated through the use of software programs and code.

  • Block: A collection of data records that are linked and secured using cryptography.