Revival: an alternative to FPGAs and Emulation

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Van slowerisbetter

Master (194)

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08-10-2011, 13:09

FPGA (I really quite like the idea of FPGA's, but it still feels like cheating hahaha, I did learn VHDL though, but never attempted to play; now might be a good time to hook up 'stuff' written in FPGA to my MSXs) is a nice road for this as msx on a chip and z80 as well, emulation would not (as many here find as well) be the same; it's lame to use a what, dual (or more) core machine with 8 gb mem on board to, badly usually, emulate a 3.58 mhz MSX. Lame. Not the same feel.

What i'm wondering is why MSXs, both FPGA and 'normal' take so much power. I would really be in the market for an MSX-2+ laptop and because it runs on this insanely low speed of 3.58 I would *think* it would consume almost no power at all if built with modern equipment (aka an FPGA, USB stuff etc) and yet that MSX on a chip also consumed enough power not to make it run on a battery. Why is this? I assume it *is* possible to run a complete 3.58 MSX on a penlight by now considering we are running supercomputers like iPads on almost nothing (space wise) atm. Is this just because of the cartridge slots so it can play old cartridges or?

Van RetroTechie

Paragon (1563)

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01-01-2012, 22:06

What i'm wondering is why MSXs, both FPGA and 'normal' take so much power.'Much' is relative - remember we used to have refrigerator-sized machines just decades ago that did less than a cheapo, battery-powered netbook does today.

If you read through a FPGA's datasheet, it'll be clear that for each gate of an implemented design, a FPGA will use many, many hardwired gates to make it happen. So it's some orders of magnitude less efficient than a full custom logic chip (ASIC).

On the other end of the spectrum, your average desktop CPU is many orders of magnitude more powerful than Z80 + peripherals. But no matter how advanced tech it uses, idle power alone is relatively high. And emulation is inefficient route in itself. Between those 2, FPGA's probably have the edge. But a well coded emulator on just-powerful-enough ARM chip might beat both. Much better would be full custom IC in modern technology, which does not (and will not) exist. Also the 1chipMSX has a 5V, 2.5A power adapter (12.5W), but I don't think it nearly takes all of that. So a set of penlights + efficient power converter might go several hours or more.

As soon as you go below a certain level of power consumption, the screen becomes the biggest consumer. Color e-paper would be nice there, but I have yet to see that in shops.

So go ahead & build that MSX2+ laptop - it is possible ! (using today's tech) LOL!

Van Fabf

Champion (264)

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02-01-2012, 19:24

Maybe the 1chipMSX have 2.5A to power the slots cartidge Question

Van petronio

Resident (35)

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04-07-2012, 15:01

I really like the ARM+emulation alternative

something like a beagleboard, although its expensive 150$. maybe there are other (pandaboard etc)
that including a nice retro keyboard + case (compact design). it could include a bunch of emulators.

an updated Turbo-R design could be awesome Smile

PD: raspberry pi its just 25$

Van Gradius2

Hero (643)

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04-07-2012, 16:09

$149 ain't expensive at all.

All depends what you do with it.


Paladin (863)

afbeelding van WORP3

04-07-2012, 20:55

Great answer matthew180, a fpga is indeed pure hardware, it has nothing to do with emulation !
Also it's the only way these days to get your design converted to an asic.
Same design but much, much faster Wink

Van Vampier

Prophet (2397)

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06-07-2012, 07:51

I still think there is nothing wrong with emulation


Paladin (863)

afbeelding van WORP3

06-07-2012, 09:52

@vampier, Not at all, but please don't compare using a FPGA with an emulator !

Van Vampier

Prophet (2397)

afbeelding van Vampier

06-07-2012, 19:35

@worp3 I'm comparing whatever I want. I know your biggest concert is "lag input" but if the end result is the same then I do not see any difference. openMSX has been improved for 11 years already and in my opinion it's superior to any FPGA MSX code out there.

Hardware/software doesn't matter.. it's the end result that counts.


Paladin (863)

afbeelding van WORP3

07-07-2012, 00:11

You can/may compare what you like but your wrong thinking i'm having concern about some lag. I'm also working with blue msx as this will speedup some development.
But overall a fpga is a hardware device and you are not programming it like some cpu, you are describing logic ! That's why you cant compare it with an emulator.
Btw, the big disadvantage of an emulator is that you can't plug in real hardware !

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