SmartSim: The free open-source digital logic circuit design and simulation platform (via Smartsim)
Simulation is incredibly important in the field of engineering. Think about it, would you ever want to be on an airplane that wasn’t crash tested or its flight characteristics checked out in a wind tunnel? How about getting into a vehicle that hasn’t been crash rated? Without simulation, things like space exploration, robotic surgery and the latest mobile devices would not be where there are today in terms of technological advancements. On another note, none of that new technology would be where it is without electronic circuitry, which also goes undergoes simulation during and after the design process. Simulation has become big in the DIY crowd since breadboarding and component design went full steam with the SBC (Single Board Computer) craze of the last few years. Most of that circuit design and simulation is done on desktop Windows or Linux-based PCs with specialized software such as Qucs, 5Spice or TINA (among a host of others, including free online simulators). When it comes to circuit design and simulation tools that can be run on SBCs, there is very little catered just for them.
Sure, you could run any number of those tools made for desktops, however some of them are resource hogs and will stutter or under-perform on those credit card-sized PCs. Fortunately for Raspberry Pi owners that’s no longer the case as circuit design and simulation can be done directly on the SBC without any conflicts at all. In fact, specialized simulation software has come pre-installed on the Pi since 2012 thanks to then 16-year old student Ashley Newson (from Oxford UK) and his SmartSim platform. Ashely designed SmartSim as an ‘A-level’ computing project for school, which consequently, didn’t offer any electronics or computer science courses. The self-taught student took it upon himself to study electronic circuitry for his project and found logic gates, Boolean algebra and simulation fascinating and cooked up SmartSim along with a corresponding 400 page report, earning himself an A and the rest of us free design and simulation software for the Raspberry Pi. Developed using Vala, GTK+ and Cairo, SmartSim allows users to create hierarchical designs for custom components and even drop those designs into other circuits as if they were any other built-in component. Those larger circuit designs can subsequently be used in other design projects as well, making them truly universal when it comes to project design.
Once the design is done, the software allows for interactive simulation with complete control over the circuit even down through the hierarchical sub-layers, even while the circuit is running. When the simulation is complete, users can then produce logic-timing diagrams, which can be exported over to PDF, PNG or even SVG file formats. SmartSim is an incredible software platform for the Raspberry Pi and the fact that it’s free only adds icing to the cake. The software can be run on Windows systems as well as Linux-based machines and can be accessed on the Raspberry Pi by entering ‘sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install smartsim’.
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