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not sure if "digital circuit design" is exactly what I'm aiming for, but someone can tell me and I'll edit it if another name matches better.

Basically, circuit design interest me a lot. I like the idea of working with AND OR NOT etc gates and building things with them. I've been wanting to build a CPU for quite a few years now, but I lack the knowledge. I'm fairly decent at programming however, so I can think "logically", but with circuit design it all is very difficult for me to understand past simple adders and such.

So, I'm looking for a beginner's book on the subject. I plan on doing all design and testing in a simulator such as Logisim, but being shown how to actually put circuits together on a breadboard out of gates(or even transistors and such) would be a definite plus, but I wouldn't want for that to be the focus of it all.

My end result hopefully is to build a CPU in a simulator. So, tell me what book(s) I need to buy to get there for someone who is a novice at electronics and a decent computer programmer.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You might find it interesting to look at the open courseware site for the MIT 6.004 lecture/lab course. Look at both the lecture slides and the labs.


I'm not familiar with the content of the 2009 version (having taken it back when it was breadboards & modules) but later used the 2004? OCW version (java iirc simulation) as a reference, then implemented that processor architecture in verilog and subsequently in an FPGA kit.

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I really wish FPGAs weren't so expensive –  Earlz Dec 15 '10 at 1:14
You should be able to get a project board with a small-medium xilinx or altera part and handy I/O peripherals and connectors for $60 - 100 and the tools are free for all but the largest parts. –  Chris Stratton Dec 15 '10 at 3:54
Finally FPGAs seem to be a bit more hobbyist friendly in price. Last I checked like a year ago I couldn't find anything cheaper than $100. I got two or three found for about $60 though and that's about the amount I have to spend :) –  Earlz Dec 17 '10 at 6:13
They were there at that price a year ago, and the year before that and the year before that too. Over time the size of the chip you can get on a board at those prices changes, but something will be in that niche because it's important to getting the technology into the hands of students, getting it purchased without a lot of corporate red tape (or just giving away to larger customers), etc. –  Chris Stratton Dec 17 '10 at 7:24

Designing CPUs is much easier if you use VHDL or Verilog. Here is a good VHDL simulator. Once you have it working you can put it into an FPGA.

This is a very good book on VHDL. It includes a simple CPU that I've implemented on a little FPGA development system I designed, using free Altera software.

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Can you give me a book also explaining an HDL then? I've tried many times to learn them but it's just such a different form of programming than I'm use to. –  Earlz Dec 13 '10 at 5:54

I like Floyd's book for digital design.

It explains everything from basic digital design, datasheets, and a lot of examples, and very clear to understand in easy language.

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Without a link to whatever it is you're talking about, this "answer" is useless. In any case, you also need to explain why. –  Dave Tweed Jan 17 '13 at 12:35

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