Field programmable gate arrays often separate the professionals from the hobbyists. Development tools are expensive, and the chips are usually in high pin-count BGA surface mount packages.

Totti turned us on to a $49 Spartan-3A FPGA development kit from AVNET. It’s got a large Xilinx Spartan FPGA, two types of flash memory, and four capacitive touch switches. Like all FPGAs, the Spartan is programmed over a JTAG interface, however, this dev kit comes with a Cypress Programmable System-on-Chip (PSoC) that acts as an on-board USB JTAG programmer.

AVNET has schematics, source code, and an active development community. This could be a great way to get started with FPGAs without buying a lot of tools.

Thanks Totti!