RISC is short for reduced instruction set computer principles. Developed in 2010, RISC-V (pronounced risk-five) is a free and open instruction set architecture (ISA) that enables processor innovation through open standard collaboration. This makes RISC-V open-sourced, usable in an academic setting, and available in any hardware or software design without royalties.
Who doesn’t like royalty-free open source?
For developers, this means RISC-V is ideal for embedded applications, from IoT applications to computer devices to automotive applications and computer controllers. With RISC-V, developers are creating custom processors designed to handle the requirements of newer workloads for artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, virtual reality, and augmented reality applications.
The development possibilities are endless. This week's New Tech Tuesdays examines three products in the RISC-V personal computer ecosystem that developers should embrace if they don’t already.
Seeed Studio Sipeed Longan Nano Development Board is ideal for anyone who wants to tinker with RISC-V processors. The board is based on the GD32VF103CBT6 MCU with a RISC-V 32-bit core by GigaDevice. The board is tiny (46.1mm x 20mm), but it has lots of functionality. It includes a 24mm RGB LCD screen, which means you're not going to want to watch a summer movie blockbuster on it. The board has a double-row pin layout design with a needle spacing of 700mils, inserted directly into a breadboard. It also has an on-board 8M passive crystal oscillator, 32.768kHz RTC low-speed crystal oscillator, mini TF slot, and uses Type-C USB interface.
Microchip Technology PolarFire® SoC FPGAs are the first system on chip (SoC) field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) with a RISC-V CPU cluster. That's a lot of acronyms. But automotive, defense, aerospace, and industrial designers who need automotive—and defense-grade programmable logic solutions will find the devices ideal for connected systems and smart applications, including IoT devices. More good news for developers: PolarFire FPGAs offer on-chip security features that enable secure communication, an encrypted bitstream, and a cryptographically secured supply chain, ensuring tamper-proof solutions.
SiFive HiFive Unmatched Linux Development Platform is a development tool built on a standard desktop Mini-ITX form factor (170mm x 170mm) for embedded platforms. SiFive calls its product the world's fastest native RISC-V development platform. The HiFive Unmatched features the Freedom U740 Linux-capable, multi-core, 64-bit dual-issue RISC‑V processor. The motherboard comes with a complete development environment where developers can create RISC-V-based applications from bare-metal to Linux-based systems.
The simple fixed-base ISA and modular fixed standard extensions have made it simple for researchers, teachers, and students to utilize RISC-V principles to learn and push the boundaries of design. This is always a good sign.
Tommy Cummings is a senior technical content specialist at Mouser Electronics in Mansfield, Texas. Tommy joined Mouser in 2018 after a journalism career that included The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. At one time, he was actually a Heisman Trophy voter. He can be followed on Twitter at @tommycummings or on LinkedIn.
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