Welcome to this module on Blackfin core. This module will introduce the Blackfin family and its peripherals. The key Blackfin core features will also be touched on including controller and DSP features.
Blackfin Family Overview
The Blackfin family consists of a broad range of Blackfin processors to suit a number of different applications. There’s also a wide variety of software development tools available, Analog Devices for instance provides VisualDSP++ and supports a uCLinux development environment. There’s also a number of tools to evaluate hardware, for instance in the form of EZ-KITs, as well as a number of debug tools that are available to debug your application on your target platform. In addition to the support that Analog Devices provides, there’s extensive third party support through the third party collaborative where you can find additional development tools. There’s a number of companies providing network stacks, TCP/IP stacks, CAN stacks, a number of vendors providing hardware building blocks, CPU modules as well as just a vast variety of software solutions.
All Blackfin processors combine extensive DSP capability with high end micro controller functions, all in the same core. This allows you to develop efficient media applications while only using a single tool chain. All Blackfin processors are based on the same core architecture so what this means is once you understand how one Blackfin processor works, you could easily migrate to other variants. The code is also compatible from one processor to another. Processors vary in clock speed, the amount of on-chip memory, the mix of peripherals, power consumption, package size, and of course, price, so there’s a very large selection of Blackfin variants to let you choose which Blackfin processor is most suitable for your particular application.
Blackfin Family Peripherals
What we’re looking at here is a variety of the peripherals that are offered within the Blackfin family, such as the EBIU or the micro processor style interface. Blackfin processors also have a PPI synchronous parallel interface typically used for video applications, serial ports or SPORTs, typically used for audio interfaces. GPIO pins are there, timer, UART, Ethernet capabilities built into several of the Blackfin variants as well as CAN or Controller Area Network and, USB.
Blackfin Processors Perform Signal Processing and Microcontroller Functions
In a typical embedded media application the traditional model consists of having a micro controller providing operations such as control, networking, and a real time clock, usually it’s a byte addressable part as well. Then you might have several blocks to perform signal processing functions, which could be audio compressions, video compression, beam forming or what have you. Then you typically have some sort of ASIC, FPGA or some other logic to provide interface to SDRAM or other peripherals. All these functions are combined into the Blackfin so now with a single core you can perform all these operations.
Blackfin Architecture - What Does It Mean for the Developer?
What does the Blackfin architecture mean to the developer? By combining a very capable 32 bit controller with dual 16 bit DSP capabilities all in the same core, designers can develop very efficient media applications such as multimedia over IP, digital cameras, telematics, software radio just to name a few examples. From a development perspective the single core means that you only have one tool chain to worry about so you don’t have a separate controller, separate DSP, you have everything done on one core. Your embedded application which consists of both control and signal processing code is going to be dealt with the same compiler, so the result is very dense control code and high performance DSP code.
From a controller perspective the Blackfin has L1 memory space that can be used for stack and heap, so this means single cycle pushes and pops. There’s dedicated stack and frame pointers, byte addressability is a feature, so we could be dealing with 8 bit, 16 bit, or 32 bit data but they’re all residing at some byte address, as well as simple bit level manipulation. From a DSP perspective the Blackfin has fast computational capability. But of course, that isn’t very useful unless you can get data moved in and out efficiently as well. Unconstrained data flow is another key feature. A lot of the DSP operations are sums of products, so the intermediate sums require high dynamic range in order to store them, so extended precision accumulators is also another key eature. Efficient sequencing, being able to deal with interrupts efficiently, looped code, branch operations are dealt with efficiently in the Blackfin, as well as efficient IO processing. Things such as DMA offer an efficient way of communicating with the outside world. The DSP aspect of the Blackfin core is optimized to perform operations such as FFTs, as well as convolutions.
Here is an example of a Blackfin processor. It is one of the members of the 54X family. The core, which consists of the Blackfin processor, internal memory, is common to all of the Blackfin variants. Once you learn how one Blackfin processor works you can easily migrate to others, as we mentioned earlier.
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