Digital Counters - National Instruments.pdf
Hopefully they will realize that the market place needs a much more affordable package.
In the end, if you really want to exploit these devices then you need to learn the full set of skills as you suggest.
Back when I was doing bit slice, it was a two quarter course with no VHDL or software support.
We had to build everything from very basic components. As you say, it takes a while to reach a level of understanding of the technology to become good at it.
Electronics is one of those fields where a little bit of knowledge is incredibly dangerous. As you gain a lot of knowledge, you become more capable than you ever realized.
Nobody said gaining knowledge and proficiency was easy. Some math and science is required.
Michael, in the tutorial, what they do is very close to putting TTL on a board and wiring things up. And they explain it rather good.
I think they are helping to learn the fundamentals of digital hardware.
You also have a point on vendor toolset buy-in, but I think this product is not supposed to have a life outside university.
If it helps students to grasp what digital logic is all about, I'm ok with that. It'll help them when they learn to design on an FPGA later on ...
edit: they don't claim this is an FPGA education. It's (quote from the pdf) "a hands-on approach to learning digital logic".
My approach allows you to get started with a under £100, Multisim starts at £2800 - I couldn't work out from a quick scan of the website if that version will do the FPGA stuff. The board they suggest using is a Nexys 3 which costs an additional $270.
Not many "makers" have access to that kind of money.
But the real point is that this article describes itself as an aid to learning the fundamentals of digital hardware - and it isn't.
I sympathize, but I look on the issue as one of greater utility.
Not everyone can handle the complexity needed to efficiently use an FPGA, but need a simple application implementation.
Your approach would exclude many makers who "could" utilize the FPGA, and increase sales, which would increase use and lower prices.
That is why I like the Cypress Semiconductor approach. They give you just enough FPGA functionality to be really useful in small projects, while providing the more adept with the tools to do more.
There are many types of potential users. Those who really want to know and learn the details of FPGA design and use and those who just want to exploit a valuable tool.
I think there is room for both.
Sorry NI and DAB - my grumpy old man hat on again.
This approach really bugs me !
The article starts off by saying that VHDL or Verilog are like, too much hard work to learn.
Then it proposes a nice NI way of doing it where all the important stuff is locked up in software tools.
The student learns pretty much nothing - except how to use some proprietary software.
So much better to get out a few TTL or CMOS logic gates and a scope and or cheapo logic analyser and make the thing for real - that way you learn about what real hardware does, glitches, spikes and all.
If you want to do it with an FPGA, then put a bit of effort in and learn a bit of VHDL or Verilog and run the design on a nice simple board like the basic jobs from Lattice, Altera, Teralogic etc etc.