Parallax Insider News

Propeller 2 Schedule Update (February 2014) - Read the schedule for completion of the Propeller 2 multicore microcontroller.

  • 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 (!  
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


the release schedule seems VERY optimistic... who is willing to place bets?

Parallax won't be making this schedule unfortunately. We will post a new schedule by October. - Ken Gracey


An update was recently posted here This schedule doesn't provide the specifics we'd all like, unfortunately. Since the most recent update was posted in September, we have come close to finishing the I/O pin (A/D, DAC, etc) and have made an agreement with an ON Semiconductor-suggested design firm to do the manual layout and synthesis. One benefit (that we haven't had in prior shuttle runs) is that their tool systems will be able to validate the entire design, not just the manual layout OR the synthesized Verilog. - Ken Gracey

Thank you for the update. I couldn't find that anywhere no matter how much googling I did. 16 cog bohemith is going to be awesome. Will the sdram interface be dedicated pins or cut into the I/O pins? And how much ram will be on each cog? I have a big project I'm working on. The propeller 2 is going to run it. And am anxious for its release so I make progress on it.


We're also looking forward to the Propeller 2 - it's going to be a major milestone in Parallax history and we've got a lot into this next step! The SDRAM can be put on any I/O pins and the A/D is flexible in the same way. Each cog has 512 longs or 2K bytes RAM and the hub RAM is 512K bytes.

On Tuesday we're meeting with our layout/synthesis company, the next step in this project. Once we get them started we should actually be able to identify an approximate completion.

- Ken Gracey 

Im anxiously awaiting another update. As im sure many people are too. Im wondering if there is a eta yet. I plan on buying several propeller 2s. So estimated time and approximate cost would help tremendously.

And is there an email or something i can contact directly for questions and/or input?

Hello Jakar510, it would be most efficient for us to answer these questions with a formal update as you have requested. I'd like to be sure that our update answers your questions, so it would be helpful to know what aspects you'd like us to discuss. You mention in your post about being interested in contacting us directly. My suggestion is to post your input/questions here and I'll use them to prepare a Propeller 2 update for a new post on the Parallax Insider News. Thanks -  

- Ken Gracey 

Here is a list of the questions i had:

i/o current and voltage limitaions/tolerances.
Limitations for programming: running code from cog ram or hub ram and conflict avoidance. Is there a math coprocessor for floating point operations? If so of what performace? If not how effective is the individual cogs at executing Floating point Operations. Are there dedicated (non-I/O) pins for the following: i2c (twi), uart, serial, dac or audio out, CAN: CANRX and CANTX, and (of less importance but will be usefull to many people) if possible RJ45 lan networking, wifi, and/or bluetooth natively.
I really hope you can make dedicated pins for the simple communication methods. Many of those use up too many of the GPIOs.

What the possibility and/or probility of having dedicated pins to access external ram. Even on lets call it a "pro" model. An upgraded propeller 2 with higher clockspeed and more hub/cog ram. I would gladly pay more for the flexibility. I dont need as much power for this project or aplication, but more power than a propeller 1, so just propeller 2. But on another project, i need alot more power, more ram, and going full custom is not feasable-- "propeller 2 pro" could be an option. Or what ever you want to call it. Then much later down the road a propeller 3. I dont know if that would be feasible this late in the game but i think i can speak for many when i say i would like the options.
What is the level of support for: servos sith/without feedback, various sensors (humidity, temp, gyroscope, accelerometer, etc), stepper motors, audio processing and synthesizing/speech analysis, etc.

One of the projects will require many servos with feedback and many stepper motors. And speech analysis and synthesis.

Resolution and performance of adc or dac and analog inputs?

I realize that most of these wont really be known until the end, but i belive they are very important considerations. Especially having dedicated pins for communications instead of using GPIOs. Even if its only SPI, i2c and serial.