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Imagination Revolutionizes CPU Architecture Education With Free and Open Access to a Modern MIPS CPU

LONDON, April 27, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) announces a revolutionary new offering as part of its Imagination University Programme (IUP) called MIPSfpga. Through MIPSfpga, Imagination is transforming CPU architecture education in universities around the globe by offering them free and open access to a fully-validated, current generation MIPS CPU in a complete teaching package.

CPU architecture is generally taught as part of electronic engineering, computer science and computer engineering courses, and is based on MIPS or one of the other two major CPU architectures. Until now, what's been missing from all of these courses is access to real, un-obfuscated RTL code that will enable professors and students to study and explore a real CPU. Imagination is changing that with MIPSfpga, bringing a new CPU architecture education paradigm to universities around the world.

The MIPS architecture was originally developed at Stanford University in the early 1980s. It has been the teaching architecture of choice for decades because of its elegant true RISC design, epitomized by Dr. David A. Patterson and Dr. John L. Hennessy in their book, 'Computer Organization and Design', now in its fifth edition.

Through MIPSfpga, Imagination is providing universities with a simplified version of its popular MIPS microAptiv CPU core which has been configured by an academic specifically for academic use. Many academics are already familiar with the microAptiv CPU, and it already has a broad ecosystem of support based on its use in numerous commercial products including the PIC32MZ microcontroller (MCU) from Microchip Technology.

The MIPS CPU is being offered as part of a complete free-to-download package for universities, together with a Getting Started Guide, teaching guide for professors, and examples designed to enable students to see how the CPU works and explore its capabilities. With the materials, students can develop a CPU and take it through debug, running on an FPGA platform.

The MIPSfpga deliverables were developed by Dr. David Harris and Dr. Sarah Harris, professors who co-wrote the popular book, 'Digital Design and Computer Architecture', now in its second edition. Dr. David Harris configured the MIPS CPU at the heart of MIPSfpga, and Dr. Sarah Harris developed the teaching materials.

This MIPS CPU configuration is designed to run on a low-cost FPGA platform, with guides available for the Digilent Nexys4 platform with a Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA, and the Terasic DE2 platform with an Altera Cyclone FPGA.

MIPSfpga is already running in several academic institutions including Harvey Mudd College, Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

Accessing MIPSfpga

The MIPSfpga CPU and related materials are available for download from the Imagination University Programme website now for first phase users via an application process. Academics should visit http://community.imgtec.com/university to register for the IUP and learn more.

Phase two, starting in June, will require only a simple click-through agreement. Additional teaching materials are being developed and will be made available later this year.

MIPSfpga Workshops

Imagination is working with Xilinx through its University Program to roll out MIPSfpga to universities worldwide. The companies are co-sponsoring workshops to enable professors to get started, with the first workshops being held at Harvey Mudd College on May 13-14, 2015. For more information on these workshops, visit www.imgtec.com/MIPSfpga.

Supporting Quotes

"What we're doing through MIPSfpga is something that hasn't been done before with a major CPU architecture. We've been working on this program for about a year as part of our focus revitalizing MIPS under Imagination. During that time, we have found great support for the program, and great love for MIPS – it is the preferred architecture for teaching. MIPS started off inside of a leading university, kicking off the RISC revolution, and now we're delighted to bring MIPS back home to the academic community, many of whom have already been using MIPS for many years."

– Tony King-Smith, EVP Marketing, Imagination

"It's been more than 30 years since we created the MIPS architecture at Stanford University. I am pleased to see MIPS rejuvenated under Imagination's care, and to see Imagination rolling out this exciting new program that brings MIPS back to academia in a big way. With its pure RISC architecture based on efficiency and simple extensible design principles, MIPS is an ideal architecture for teaching and studying CPU design. Professors and students alike can benefit from the ability to study MIPS RTL code and explore a real MIPS CPU."

– Dr. John L. Hennessy, Office of the President, Stanford University (Co-Founder, MIPS Computer Systems, 1984)

"I believe that MIPSfpga is the most significant contribution to teaching microprocessors that I have facilitated in my 21 years of creating support packages for academia. The enthusiasm of educators to encourage this project has been a wonderful motivator."

– Robert Owen, Manager: Worldwide University Programme, Imagination

"The significance of MIPSfpga for teaching computer architecture can't be overstated. It makes so much more sense to teach a CPU architecture using a commercially available, modern core that is out there in silicon. With MIPSfpga, if students want to look inside to see how the CPU works, or if they want to modify it, they can do it. Teachers have always wanted this access, and I am personally delighted to be a part of making this program widely available to universities around the globe."

– Dr. David Money Harris, Harvey S. Mudd Professor of Engineering Design
Harvey Mudd College

"I am delighted to have been involved in making the MIPSfpga program a reality. The use of this industrial-strength MIPS core is an excellent complement to courses ranging from digital logic design and computer architecture to embedded systems and system-on-chip design. We created the teaching materials in a similar manner in which we created the popular 'Digital Design and Computer Architecture' textbook, to provide an approachable way to use, experiment with, and learn from the commercial MIPS core. With MIPSfpga, Imagination is providing academia with both practical and insightful teaching tools."

– Dr. Sarah Harris, Associate Professor, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

"We are pleased to have been among the very first users of MIPSfpga. The exciting thing for us is the ability for students to modify and experiment with every aspect of the computer architecture. We have already had two students carrying out projects on the beta MIPSfpga with further students lined up for the coming academic year."

– Dr. Philip Watts, EPSRC Research Fellow and Lecturer,
Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University College London

"Through the Xilinx University Program, we are pleased to partner with Imagination as it rolls out its exciting new MIPSfpga program. Development boards based on our Artix-7 FPGA bring a high level of performance to student-focused FPGA design kits, and are already used widely in universities. The combination of the MIPSfpga CPU and materials with the Artix-7 based platform results in a fantastic new learning opportunity for students across a range of electronics disciplines."

– Jason Wong, Worldwide Manager,
Xilinx University Program

"We are pleased to work with Imagination on MIPSfpga as it brings this exciting program to Japan. We plan to host Japan's first MIPSfpga training workshops at Keio University, and we are exploring how we can create a comprehensive program around the materials."

– Hideharu Amano, Ph.D, Professor,
Dept. of Information and Computer Science, Keio University

"The MIPSfpga project will be very attractive for our undergraduates in our Microelectronics program as well as graduates in the areas of computer architecture and integrated circuit design, especially for those who take our graduate course on advanced computer architecture, and undergraduate course on computer organization and embedded systems. In this course, we already teach MIPS, and are currently using simulation tools to execute the RTL description of pipelines running the MIPS instruction set. It will be much more interesting and educational for students to be able to run a MIPS CPU on an FPGA."

– Yongxin Zhu (Winson), Associate Professor, Senior Member of IEEE and
China Computer Federation, School of Microelectronics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

"The MIPSfpga approach is quite compatible with our courses at Tsinghua, where the MIPS instruction set architecture is already a popular choice for both graduate and undergraduate activities. We're delighted to hear that Imagination will be enabling students to experience real RTL, presenting a great new learning experience."

– Zhang Youhui, PhD., Professor, Department of Computer Science,
Tsinghua University

"Currently we are teaching computer architecture in our MS course using the famous Patterson & Hennessy book. The availability of a MIPS CPU would be a fantastic practical complement to the theory we teach, and give students first-hand experience directly relevant to their future designs."

– Professor K. Subbarangaiah, Director,
VEDA IIT (VLSI Engineering and Design Automation)

About the Imagination University Program

The Imagination University Program (IUP) is designed to provide practical help to teachers around the world so that they can use Imagination's technologies in courses and student projects. The focus is on providing the four vital elements needed to teach a course: a suitable hardware platform at a reasonable price, free software development tools, effective technical support, and excellent teaching materials that serve genuine teaching needs. The IUP is open to all members of academia. For more information, visit http://community.imgtec.com/university.

About Imagination Technologies

Imagination is a global technology leader whose products touch the lives of billions of people across the globe. The company's broad range of silicon IP (intellectual property) includes the key processing blocks needed to create the SoCs (Systems on Chips) that power all mobile, consumer and embedded electronics. Its unique software IP, infrastructure technologies and system solutions enable its customers to get to market quickly with complete and highly differentiated SoC platforms. Imagination's licensees include many of the world's leading semiconductor manufacturers, network operators and OEMs/ODMs who are creating some of the world's most iconic products. See: www.imgtec.com.

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CONTACT: Imagination Technologies' Press Contacts: UK: David Harold david.harold@imgtec.com +44 (0)1923 260 511 USA: Jen Bernier-Santarini jen.bernier@imgtec.com +1 408-530-5178

Source:Imagination Technologies