Programmable Logic/PALs

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Before PLDs were invented, read-only memory (ROM) chips were used to create arbitrary combinational logic functions of a number of inputs. Consider a ROM with m inputs (the address lines) and n outputs (the data lines). When used as a memory, the ROM contains 2m words of n bits each.

Now imagine that the inputs are driven not by an m-bit address, but by m independent logic signals. Theoretically, there are 22m possible Boolean functions of these m input signals. By Boolean function in this context is meant a single function that maps each of the 2m possible combinations of the m Boolean inputs to a single Boolean output. There are 22m possible distinct ways to map each of 2m inputs to a Boolean value, which explains why there are 22m such Boolean functions of m inputs.

Now, consider that each of the n output pins acts, independently, as a logic device that is specially selected to sample just one of the possible 22m such functions. At any given time, only one of the 2m possible input values can be present on the ROM, but over time, as the input values span their full possible domain, each output pin will map out its particular function of the 2m possible input values, from among the 22m possible such functions. Note that the structure of the ROM allows just n of the 22m possible such Boolean functions to be produced at the output pins. The ROM therefore becomes equivalent to n separate logic circuits, each of which generates a chosen function of the m inputs.

The advantage of using a ROM in this way is that any conceivable function of all possible combinations of the m inputs can be made to appear at any of the n outputs, making this the most general-purpose combinational logic device available for m input pins and n output pins.

Also, PROMs (programmable ROMs), EPROMs (ultraviolet-erasable PROMs) and EEPROMs (electrically erasable PROMs) are available that can be programmed using a standard PROM programmer without requiring specialised hardware or software. However, there are several disadvantages:

   they are usually much slower than dedicated logic circuits,
   they cannot necessarily provide safe "covers" for asynchronous logic transitions so the PROM's outputs may glitch as the inputs switch,
   they consume more power,
   they are often more expensive than programmable logic, especially if high speed is required.

Since most ROMs do not have input or output registers, they cannot be used stand-alone for sequential logic. An external TTL register was often used for sequential designs such as state machines. Common EPROMs, for example the 2716, are still sometimes used in this way by hobby circuit designers, who often have some lying around. This use is sometimes called a 'poor man's PAL'.

Early programmable logic:

In 1969, Motorola offered the XC157, a mask-programmed gate array with 12 gates and 30 uncommitted input/output pins.[1]

In 1970, Texas Instruments developed a mask-programmable IC based on the IBM read-only associative memory or ROAM. This device, the TMS2000, was programmed by altering the metal layer during the production of the IC. The TMS2000 had up to 17 inputs and 18 outputs with 8 JK flip flop for memory. TI coined the term Programmable Logic Array for this device.[2]

In 1971, General Electric Company (GE) was developing a programmable logic device based on the new PROM technology. This experimental device improved on IBM's ROAM by allowing multilevel logic. Intel had just introduced the floating-gate UV erasable PROM so the researcher at GE incorporated that technology. The GE device was the first erasable PLD ever developed, predating the Altera EPLD by over a decade. GE obtained several early patents on programmable logic devices.[3][4][5]

In 1973 National Semiconductor introduced a mask-programmable PLA device (DM7575) with 14 inputs and 8 outputs with no memory registers. This was more popular than the TI part but cost of making the metal mask limited its use. The device is significant because it was the basis for the field programmable logic array produced by Signetics in 1975, the 82S100. (Intersil actually beat Signetics to market but poor yield doomed their part.)[6][7]

In 1974 GE entered into an agreement with Monolithic Memories to develop a mask- programmable logic device incorporating the GE innovations. The device was named the 'Programmable Associative Logic Array' or PALA. The MMI 5760 was completed in 1976 and could implement multilevel or sequential circuits of over 100 gates. The device was supported by a GE design environment where Boolean equations would be converted to mask patterns for configuring the device. The part was never brought to market.[8]

PLA:

Main article: Programmable Logic Array

In 1970, Texas Instruments developed a mask-programmable IC based on the IBM read-only associative memory or ROAM. This device, the TMS2000, was programmed by altering the metal layer during the production of the IC. The TMS2000 had up to 17 inputs and 18 outputs with 8 JK flip flop for memory. TI coined the term Programmable Logic Array for this device.[2]

A programmable logic array (PLA) has a programmable AND gate array, which links to a programmable OR gate array, which can then be conditionally complemented to produce an output.

PAL:

Main article: Programmable Array Logic

PAL devices have arrays of transistor cells arranged in a "fixed-OR, programmable-AND" plane used to implement "sum-of-products" binary logic equations for each of the outputs in terms of the inputs and either synchronous or asynchronous feedback from the outputs.

MMI introduced a breakthrough device in 1978, the Programmable Array Logic or PAL. The architecture was simpler than that of Signetics FPLA because it omitted the programmable OR array. This made the parts faster, smaller and cheaper. They were available in 20 pin 300 mil DIP packages while the FPLAs came in 28 pin 600 mil packages. The PAL Handbook demystified the design process. The PALASM design software (PAL Assembler) converted the engineers' Boolean equations into the fuse pattern required to program the part. The PAL devices were soon second-sourced by National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments and AMD.

After MMI succeeded with the 20-pin PAL parts, AMD introduced the 24-pin 22V10 PAL with additional features. After buying out MMI (1987), AMD spun off a consolidated operation as Vantis, and that business was acquired by Lattice Semiconductor in 1999.