Discussion:
FPGA VAX
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Tim Sneddon
2007-01-22 23:48:39 UTC
Permalink
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...

FPGA VAX

RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.

The rest can be found at:

http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php

Regards, Tim.
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H Vlems
2007-01-23 18:12:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide
VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems
critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
Post by Tim Sneddon
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Regards, Tim.
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Umm, so that's where my BTW (VAT, TVA etc.) is spent on, and, am I supposed
to feel better and more secure with this little bit of news?

Hans
Tom Linden
2007-01-24 03:44:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
Post by Tim Sneddon
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide
VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems
critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
Post by Tim Sneddon
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Regards, Tim.
I wonder why Digital/Compaq/HP weren't able to move it to Alpha. What
was it about this code that made them stay on VAX? Just curious.
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Rich Alderson
2007-01-24 19:37:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Linden
Post by Tim Sneddon
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
[snip]
Post by Tom Linden
I wonder why Digital/Compaq/HP weren't able to move it to Alpha. What
was it about this code that made them stay on VAX? Just curious.
Sometimes it's non-technical requirements. At a PPOE, we had a potential
customer for our PDP-10 clone (to replace 14 KL-10 systems) simple because the
instruction set was the same, and so they would not have to satisfy government
auditors that the new systems got the same results as the old ones by doing an
audit of restricted materials (a political hot potato).
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Dave Weatherall
2007-01-25 05:37:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Linden
Post by Tim Sneddon
Post by Tim Sneddon
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide
VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems
critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
Post by Tim Sneddon
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Regards, Tim.
I wonder why Digital/Compaq/HP weren't able to move it to Alpha. What
was it about this code that made them stay on VAX? Just curious.
I started a post yesterday but forgot I was on OS/2 did Ctrl/Alt/Del
to bring up the task manager, to get the Browser window back, and...

Anyway, if this were something like a KAV-30 (VAX/VME SBC) then I know
some other people who would be interested. Why VAX? Possibly because
of the wonderful VAX/ELN RT OS, which, sadly, never got ported to
Alpha (or the port was nver finished!). I keep seeing glimpses in
Win32 though....
--
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Bob Koehler
2007-01-26 20:11:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tom Linden
I wonder why Digital/Compaq/HP weren't able to move it to Alpha. What
was it about this code that made them stay on VAX? Just curious.
Probably because that $100K VAX was hooked up to $100M custom UNIBUS
hardware.
glen herrmannsfeldt
2007-01-24 10:40:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
As a microcoded machine, it should be (relatively) easy to implement.
If HP owns the VAX microcode, that should work, and still be plenty
fast enough. With the RAM that they put on FPGA's these days, it
should be pretty fast, too.

-- glen
David J Dachtera
2007-01-26 02:15:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Pardon my butting in...

I'm just dying to know what "FPGA" is.

I'm sure it's not "Female Professional Golf Assoc."
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Jeff Campbell
2007-01-26 03:17:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by David J Dachtera
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Pardon my butting in...
I'm just dying to know what "FPGA" is.
Field Programmable Gate Array.
Post by David J Dachtera
I'm sure it's not "Female Professional Golf Assoc."
Jeff

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Paul Sture
2007-01-26 03:34:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by David J Dachtera
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Pardon my butting in...
I'm just dying to know what "FPGA" is.
I'm sure it's not "Female Professional Golf Assoc."
I *think* that these are Field Programmable Gate Arrays, where the
"Field programmable" bit means programmable by the customer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FPGA
--
Paul Sture
Stephen Hoffman
2007-01-26 16:53:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Sture
Post by David J Dachtera
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Pardon my butting in...
I'm just dying to know what "FPGA" is.
I'm sure it's not "Female Professional Golf Assoc."
I *think* that these are Field Programmable Gate Arrays, where the
"Field programmable" bit means programmable by the customer.
It would appear to be a VAX processor built using a field
programmable gate array, rather than with fully- or semi-custom
integrated circuitry. That's not going to be a small FPGA, either. :-)

Programmable hardware.

Chip designs can be fully custom semiconductor, semi-custom, or using
generic programmable hardware such as the FPGA. FPGA is the cheapest of
these three and very flexible, but there can be speed and scaling
problems; you won't get gonzo performance, but you do get flexibility.
You can implement the design of the using a chunk of non-volatile
storage loaded into the FPGA, and off you go. Make a mistake or have a
tweak in the design, and you don't need a whole new chip fabrication
pass, you just reprogram the gate array.

The DECvoice DTC04, DTC05 and DTCN5 modules used this technique, as
do many other devices, and the DECvoice boards could have different
microcode loaded into the on-board Xilinx FPGA to completely change the
behavior of the hardware. FPGA has come a whole long way since then.

As for other FPGA stuff, Dave Conroy (worked very briefly with Dave
eons ago, back in DEC VPG) was working on various FPGA versions of old
DIGITAL iron in eons past, but I don't know what happened to that work.
There are other FPGA-related projects, too. Here are some URLs:

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.sys.pdp10/msg/8d2377e4c98b59ec
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.sys.pdp10/msg/5ec72dc12d1412d1
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.sys.pdp10/browse_frm/thread/2c657978fade4d1c/8e2e05c45dab5c94
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.sys.pdp10/msg/2ebe16a3077fd11f
http://www.jaywalk.co.uk/pdp8
http://neil.franklin.ch/Projects/PDP-10/
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Bob Koehler
2007-01-26 20:16:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Stephen Hoffman
It would appear to be a VAX processor built using a field
programmable gate array, rather than with fully- or semi-custom
integrated circuitry. That's not going to be a small FPGA, either. :-)
At least one processor, which was almost a PDP-x (can't say which
one, but certainly single digit), was implimented in FPGA in the
1990s. One off for only a $1M or so.
Rich Alderson
2007-01-26 22:36:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bob Koehler
Post by Stephen Hoffman
It would appear to be a VAX processor built using a field
programmable gate array, rather than with fully- or semi-custom
integrated circuitry. That's not going to be a small FPGA, either. :-)
At least one processor, which was almost a PDP-x (can't say which
one, but certainly single digit), was implimented in FPGA in the
1990s. One off for only a $1M or so.
I think you're thinking of the PDP-8/X, done by Neil Franklin. One off, but
he was giving away the VHDL for it. Parts would make it run about $1K, not
$1M.
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Bob Koehler
2007-01-28 20:05:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Alderson
Post by Bob Koehler
Post by Stephen Hoffman
It would appear to be a VAX processor built using a field
programmable gate array, rather than with fully- or semi-custom
integrated circuitry. That's not going to be a small FPGA, either. :-)
At least one processor, which was almost a PDP-x (can't say which
one, but certainly single digit), was implimented in FPGA in the
1990s. One off for only a $1M or so.
I think you're thinking of the PDP-8/X, done by Neil Franklin. One off, but
he was giving away the VHDL for it. Parts would make it run about $1K, not
$1M.
No, didn't know about that one. I can put my hands on the one I know
about. There was more to it than just the chip, so the $1M wasn't
soley to reprodude the architecure on the FPGA. But it did include
ALL the work, from scratch.

Rich Alderson
2007-01-26 22:33:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Stephen Hoffman
It would appear to be a VAX processor built using a field
programmable gate array, rather than with fully- or semi-custom
integrated circuitry. That's not going to be a small FPGA, either. :-)
At XKL, we built the Toad-1 System (original code name stood for "Ten on a
Desk") using 2 large Altera FPGAs (early 90s value of "large FPGA"). A few
years later, we put a similar design into a single Synopsys FPGA.

This was a KL-10 superset processor (full PDP-10 instruction set, larger cache
and full 30-bit addressing vs. 22 on the KL-10). So a VAX is not that hard to
envision using today's parts.
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David Mathog
2007-01-26 17:38:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
How is this easier than dusting off the last VAX chip masks and doing a
run or two at a foundry? Given that 90 nm is pretty much standard these
days, and that's probably 10 times the resolution of the last VAX chip
that was made, cranking out a few actual chips shouldn't be that hard.
That is, even if the VAX chip required cutting edge chip technology then
it's not anywhere near that now.

Or during all the mergers did Dec/Compaq/HP manage to lose the masks,
so that they have no choice but to do it with an FPGA? For that matter,
why not just run a VAX emulator on an off the shelf CPU and skip the
custom chip entirely?

Regards,

David Mathog
Bob Koehler
2007-01-26 20:17:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Mathog
How is this easier than dusting off the last VAX chip masks and doing a
run or two at a foundry? Given that 90 nm is pretty much standard these
days, and that's probably 10 times the resolution of the last VAX chip
that was made, cranking out a few actual chips shouldn't be that hard.
That is, even if the VAX chip required cutting edge chip technology then
it's not anywhere near that now.
A new chip was $5M a pop for a test burn in the early 1980s.
h***@aracnet.com
2007-01-26 23:50:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Mathog
How is this easier than dusting off the last VAX chip masks and doing a
run or two at a foundry? Given that 90 nm is pretty much standard these
days, and that's probably 10 times the resolution of the last VAX chip
that was made, cranking out a few actual chips shouldn't be that hard.
That is, even if the VAX chip required cutting edge chip technology then
it's not anywhere near that now.
Or during all the mergers did Dec/Compaq/HP manage to lose the masks,
so that they have no choice but to do it with an FPGA? For that matter,
why not just run a VAX emulator on an off the shelf CPU and skip the
custom chip entirely?
The technology for such things change rapidly. Can those masks still be
read? Does the hardware needed to fab those parts still exist anywhere?
This is likely cheaper than trying to setup a fab to produce more VAX chips.

FPGA implementations of old hardware is big business. The PDP-10, PDP-11,
Commodore 64, and probably others have had commercial systems released using
FPGA CPU's. There has already been at least one VAX implementation done in
FPGA by Tokai University.

For a rundown of the FPGA implementations of DEC CPU's that I'm aware of
(minus this latest VAX, as I've not had time to update the page), see the
following. http://www.aracnet.com/~healyzh/pdp_fpga.html

Zane
Robert Deininger
2007-01-27 12:57:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Mathog
Post by Tim Sneddon
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett
Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will
provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy
systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
How is this easier than dusting off the last VAX chip masks and doing a
run or two at a foundry? Given that 90 nm is pretty much standard these
days, and that's probably 10 times the resolution of the last VAX chip
that was made, cranking out a few actual chips shouldn't be that hard.
Where did you get that idea?

Have you priced out the set-up costs for a "run or two" at a foundry?

How about cost of building (or perhaps refurbishing) the test equipment?

Do you know of a foundry that exists that could fabricate using the right
materials and processes for the last generation of VAX chips? You seem to
think the only relevant property of a foundry is the minimum feature size
it can produce (90nm). That's FAR from reality.

Complex chips like a VAX are designed in conjuction with the foundry that
will produce them, and the test equipment that will test each chip.
There's no reason to think that the ancient tools and software that were
used for VAX would work easily or cheaply with today's foundry equipment.

For an application that probably needs less than 1000 chips, FPGA is
likely MUCH cheaper.
Post by David Mathog
That is, even if the VAX chip required cutting edge chip technology then
it's not anywhere near that now.
Or during all the mergers did Dec/Compaq/HP manage to lose the masks,
They were probably gone before the Digital/Compaq merger. But not lost;
deliberatly tossed to save the considerable storage costs. They could
perhaps be re-generated from CAD files (if those could be found and the
data interpreted by today's software), but that might cost as much as the
FPGA project.
Post by David Mathog
so that they have no choice but to do it with an FPGA? For that matter,
why not just run a VAX emulator on an off the shelf CPU and skip the
custom chip entirely?
A VAX emulator does meet the needs of most VAX customers. That's why the
demand for new VAX hardware is so tiny.


An FPGA design has the advantage that the set-up costs for the hardware
are aleady paid, and the chip comes already electronically tested. The
firmware that implements the VAX can be tested using conventional, and
still actively used, VAX verification tools.
Bob Koehler
2007-01-26 20:10:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tim Sneddon
Anyone seen this before? I thought it looked kind of interesting...
FPGA VAX
RT Logic is re-implementing VAX computer systems in FPGA for Hewlett Packard. By leveraging HP's VAX intellectual property, RT Logic will provide VAX single-board computers and peripherals to replace legacy systems critical to the maintenance of NATO's Air Defense System.
http://www.rtlogic.com/satcom_key_projects.php
Regards, Tim.
Cool. An FPGA VAX could threaten early ALphas for performance. But
for plug compatability they probably will have to slow them down.
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