- By: Ken Gracey Published: 24 February, 2014 9 comments
As you know, this has taken us a long time to finish. Having worked with Chip and his team for almost 20 years now, we’re really excited about what lies ahead. The best Parallax products (PIC Programmer, BASIC Stamp, Propeller chip, Boe-Bot) have taken the most time to make them reliable, easy to use, and rewarding for our customers. But this time we’ve also experienced a big learning process that paralleled the development cycle. Through several fabrication runs and a few failed attempts we’ve found more efficient ways to finish this project.
Propeller 2 will have been in design for eight years and been fabricated about four times before it is released. And the whole process is happening live on the Parallax forums (http://forums.parallax.com/forumdisplay.php/97-Propeller-2-Multicore-Microcontroller)!
As it looks today, the schedule for Propeller 2’s completion is as follows:
- March - May: Core design complete and submitted to On Semiconductor for synthesis
- March - April: Finalizing of exterior frame layout for A/D and I/O pin by Parallax
- May: Integration of the two above parts (synthesized core and external I/O)
- June - July: Submittal to foundry for fabrication
- September: Test chips provided back to Parallax for assembly on modules
- September - October: Characterization and limited distribution
- October - November: Mass production
- December: Chips for sale
What About Sample Devices?
Once we’ve qualified the design we will certainly distribute a limited number of sample Propeller 2 to our tool developers, early adopters, commercial users and key customers. More details on this to follow, but we’d expect to have at least a few hundred modules for this purpose. It’s the least we can do to thank all of the Propeller 2 contributors. We’ll have a sample program in place by the time we have working chips.
Parallax Propeller 2 Cyclone V FPGA Development Tool
Concurrent with the completion of the Propeller 2, Parallax is developing our own FPGA board based on the Altera Cyclone V-A7 processor for release in May or June. Customers will be able to download the Propeller 2 core (as they are currently doing with the Terasic DE2-115 and DE0 Nano FPGA boards) to a design that closely resembles functionality of the full Propeller 2. You’ll be able to program it in Spin, ASM, C and a number of other languages the community will quickly develop.
The Parallax Propeller 2 FPGA board allows us to run a parallel effort while the design is in fabrication:
- Product developers can design around Propeller 2, getting a head start on code development;
- Tool developers who’ve created our open-source Mac/Windows/Linux programming environments and C compilers will be able to finalize tools; and
- Bugs in the design could be identified. Though we don’t expect any surprises since customers have been programming Propeller 2s for over a year already, it always helps to have a large number of users review our work before so many dollars are committed to an ASIC.
Propeller 2 Early Adopter Seminar
Once we finalize our Propeller 2 Cyclone V FGPA production schedule we will plan a Propeller 2 Early Adopter Seminar at Parallax, sometime in May or June. We will have an open invitation to come to our office for a two-day hands-on programming seminar that shows the Propeller 2’s capabilities. Our internal company goal is to have 1,000 Propeller 2 early adopters using our FPGA board before the end of 2014.
Thanks for the Design Contributions
You’ve contributed to the Propeller 2 with security features, compilers, memory management, I/O pin behavior and instruction set improvements. Thank you for your support, as it could lead to the world’s most open multicore design!
Finally, please let me temper your enthusiasm with a bit of historical reality about product releases and Parallax: excluding our Education Team who always finishes according to schedule, we’ve rarely met release deadlines. This effort is boot-strapped, meaning your purchases fund our research and development, foundry runs and tool licenses. We’re about $5M into Propeller 2 at this stage, so we shall certainly deliver a completed design to our customers. Foundry runs always involve some surprises, ranging from total failure to the need for fine-tuning.
At this stage we are prepared for our final push and look forward to bringing timely completion to our Parallax team, our customers and community. The greatest reward will be seeing what our community can make with a Propeller 2, and how it enriches their personal and professional lives.
- Ken Gracey