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Playing with PicoRV32 on the iCE40-HX8K FPGA Breakout Board (part 2)

It works!

Press ENTER to continue..
Press ENTER to continue..

  ____  _          ____         ____
 |  _ \(_) ___ ___/ ___|  ___  / ___|
 | |_) | |/ __/ _ \___ \ / _ \| |
 |  __/| | (_| (_) |__) | (_) | |___
 |_|   |_|\___\___/____/ \___/ \____|

SPI State:
Select an action:

   [1] Read SPI Flash ID
   [2] Read SPI Config Regs
   [3] Switch to default mode
   [4] Switch to Dual I/O mode
   [5] Switch to Quad I/O mode
   [6] Switch to Quad DDR mode
   [7] Toggle continuous read mode
   [9] Run simplistic benchmark
   [0] Benchmark all configs

Command> 9
Cycles: 0x00f3d36d
Instns: 0x0003df2d
Chksum: 0x5b8eb866

In the first part I got my reverse-engineered Lattice iCE40-HX8K FPGA using the completely free Project IceStorm toolchain working. I wrote a simple Verilog demo which flashed the LEDs.

Today I played with Clifford Wolf’s PicoRV32 core. What he’s written is actually a lot more sophisticated than I initially realized. There’s a simple memory mapped serial port, a memory mapped SPI bus, & a bit of interactive firmware so you can test it out (see above).

Rather than using Clifford’s build scripts (which compile the riscv32 cross-compiler and run sudo at various points) I wrote a Makefile to build and program the FPGA on Fedora.

And it works (see above)! Now what we need is a simple 32 bit operating system that could run on it. swapforth seems to be one but as far as I can tell it hasn’t been ported to RV32. Maybe I could port Jonesforth …


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Playing with PicoRV32 on the iCE40-HX8K FPGA Breakout Board (part 1)

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 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

It looks like the base clock frequency is 2 MHz.

The fully working example is in this repo: https://github.com/rwmjones/icestorm-flash-leds

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


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