If you want to learn how to use FPGAs, and learn about things like Verilog, then it’s a good idea to start with an industry standard board. Xilinx just released their 7 series and this means that it is possible to pick up 6 series devices for a good price, and the Spartan 6 based development boards are ideal for learning on.
Electronics And hardware Description Languages
Learning to work with electronics and hardware description languages takes patience, and you will need to read, experiment, and work hard to understand the concepts behind what you are doing. There are a lot of tutorials that can help with simulation or with learning HDLs, but unless you think while you follow them, you will find it hard to apply what you pick up to do your own projects at a later date.
It helps if you have some basic understanding of electronics and logic gates, and it helps if you have used a programming language before – C is a good option because while it is a programming language not an HDL, it is less high level than a lot of others, and therefore it feels less uncomfortable to get ‘under the hood’ with the FPGA.
Spartan Development Boards
Spartan dvelopment boards work well with Verilog, which is an industry standard HDL. A hadware description language describes real circuits in text that humans can understand. You write the design for the high performance fpga in Verilog, and then send it to the board for initialization. Before HDLs, you could use schematics, but schematics become unsustainable when you are building a large design, and most modern designs would count as ‘large’.
Another reason it makes sense to larn with a Spartan FPGA is because Xilinx is such a popular company for making production-grade FPGAs, and the Spartan is one of the more well-known boards. Why learn on something that nobody uses – that would be like going to college to learn to programme Windows phones, then going out into the real world where people are hiring designers for Android and iOS. The skills prove that you have talent, but they are not directly transferable to a real job, and most companies want people who have some experince – even if it’s just designing and coding in their bedrooms. It’s your job to learn those skills, and the Spartan boards are an accessible way of doing just that.