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Actel unveils time saving desktop FPGA debugging & diagnostic tool; Deterministic approach slashes design verification time.

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 21, 1997--Actel Corporation (NASDAQ NASDAQ
 in full National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations

U.S. market for over-the-counter securities. Established in 1971 by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), NASDAQ is an automated quotation system that reports on
:ACTL ACTL American College of Trial Lawyers (Irvine, California)
ACTL Access Carrier Terminal Location
ACTL Activation Library
ACTL Automated Compatibility Test Laboratory
ACTL Association Cultural Turkey-Luxembourg
) today introduced Silicon Explorer, a desktop computer-based debugging and diagnostic tool suite that reduces Field Programmable Gate Array See FPGA.  (FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) A type of gate array that is programmed in the field rather than in a semiconductor fab. Containing up to hundreds of thousands of gates, there are a variety of FPGA architectures on the market. ) design verification time by approximately two-thirds.

"In the fast-paced industries which utilize FPGAs, time-to-market is critical," said Rhondalee Rohleder, President of the market research firm, Pace Technologies. "Being first to market with a particular product can result in significant revenue gains during a product lifetime."

Silicon Explorer will shorten an FPGA design cycle by eliminating time-intensive and indeterminate design re-layout or static verification methodologies. Instead, circuit designers seek and identify design defects through Silicon Explorer's real-time internal node access capability. Using this "in-circuit" monitoring debug To correct a problem in hardware or software. Debugging software means locating the errors in the source code (the program logic). Debugging hardware means finding errors in the circuit design (logical circuits) or in the physical interconnections of the circuits.  methodology, designers can observe node activities in real-time without affecting timing, loading and fanout.

"For years, designers have wanted to debug their complex ICs, including FPGAs by observing internal circuit activity. Now, using Silicon Explorer and Actel FPGAs, designers can literally see everything that's happening inside the chip and in real-time. This is truly unique. No other programmable device or debugging methodology can accomplish this," explained Michael Saniei, Actel's Software Product Line Manager.

Designed for debugging both Actel's antifuse-based FPGAs and SRAM-based SPGAs, Silicon Explorer also supports configuration download of SRAM See static RAM.

SRAM - static random-access memory
 devices as well as eliminating the need for repeated time-consuming EPROM EPROM
 in full erasable programmable read-only memory

Form of computer memory that does not lose its content when the power supply is cut off and that can be erased and reused.
 programming during the device prototyping step.

"As gate counts increase and designs incorporate more intellectual property (IP) blocks, fast isolation of design defects have become a critical component of the design cycle," Saniei said. "Silicon Explorer provides unique capabilities that helps customers get new products to market faster."

The Silicon Explorer tool suite includes ProbePilot, a high-speed signal acquisition hardware interface between the Actel FPGA, the board on which the FPGA resides, and the designer's desktop computer; Explore, an easy-to-use point-and-click software tool that is integrated with Actel's Designer Series development software; and Analyze, a PC-hosted logic analyzer (1) A device that monitors computer performance by timing various segments of the running programs. The total running time and the time spent in selected program modules is displayed in order to isolate the least efficient code.  that graphically displays the waveforms accessed through ProbePilot.

The ProbePilot signal acquisition control takes advantage of Actel's ActionProbe circuitry, a patented architectural feature included in all Actel devices that provides 100 percent observability of internal nodes from selected external pins. ProbePilot supports 18 separate probing channel and features high-speed 100 MHz (MegaHertZ) One million cycles per second. It is used to measure the transmission speed of electronic devices, including channels, buses and the computer's internal clock. A one-megahertz clock (1 MHz) means some number of bits (16, 32, 64, etc.  asynchronous Refers to events that are not synchronized, or coordinated, in time. The following are considered asynchronous operations. The interval between transmitting A and B is not the same as between B and C. The ability to initiate a transmission at either end.  or 66 MHz synchronous sampling rates. ProbePilot connects directly to any desktop or laptop computer, or workstation, though the serial port and operates off of the test board's 5.0 volt or 3.3 volt power supply.

The Explore windows-based software drives the entire diagnostic and debug process and resides on the designer's PC or workstation as part of Actel's Designer Series FPGA development tools.

The Analyze software tool essentially turns the designer's PC or workstation into a full-featured 18 channel logic analyzer, eliminating the need for a costly stand-alone logic analyzer.

"Early tests have show that Silicon Explorer can cut debug time from six weeks to less than one week. For instance, a LAN (Local Area Network) A communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area. The "clients" are the user's workstations typically running Windows, although Mac and Linux clients are also used.  equipment designer was taking an eight hour day to complete one debug cycle using SRAM-based FPGAs. Seven hours of that time was spent recompiling the design just to get access to internal nodes so they could view it dynamically. Using Actel's Silicon Explorer, the designer can access each internal node immediately without recompiling the design," Saniei explained.

Price and Availability

The Silicon Explorer package is priced at $1,295 (U.S.) list. Silicon Explorer Lite, packaged without the Analyze PC-hosted logic analyzer, is priced at $495 (U.S.) list. The product is currently undergoing beta testing (programming) beta testing - Testing a pre-release (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software by making it available to selected users. This term derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints, first used at IBM but later standard throughout the . Production versions will be available in May 1997.

About Actel

Actel is dedicated to providing the best programmable logic See PLD.  solutions, giving logic designers the capability and confidence to move to high complexity designs with success. The company is the world's leading supplier of antifuse-based field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and associated software development tools. FPGAs are used by designers of communications, computer, medical, military/aerospace, industrial control, and other electronic systems to differentiate their products and get them to market faster. Actel introduced the first programmable systems-on-silicon, based on SRAM technology, which inaugurated a new class of PLDs: SPGAs or system programmable gate arrays.

Actel is traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol ACTL and is located at 955 East Arques Avenue, Sunnyvale, California Sunnyvale ([sʌniveil]) is a city in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It is one of the major cities that make up the Silicon Valley. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 131,760.  94086-4533. Telephone: 408/739-1010. Internet: -0-

Note to Editors: Actel is a registered trademark of Actel Corporation. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

CONTACT: Actel Corporation

Michael Saniei, 408/739-1010 (reader contact)

Chuck Byers, 408/739-1010 (media contact)


Walt & Company Communications

Sandy Turner/Kristin Jones, 408/496-0900
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Apr 21, 1997
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