When it comes to open source hardware, we’re used to seeing schematics and board design files for printed circuit boards. But most of the time, the integrated circuits that are placed into these designs are actually closed source. However, today Parallax took a bold step towards openness by releasing the design files for their Propeller 1 P8X32A multicore microcontroller. The files are distributed under the GNU General Public License v3.0, which “grants end users the freedom to use and modify the software provided it is copylefted to ensure that any derived works are distributed under the same license terms.”

“Every inventor, engineer, or hobbyist can identify the inspirations that shaped their careers,” said Parallax CEO Ken Gracey. “We hope to inspire others the same way we’ve been inspired.” The company also hopes that going open source will support higher education and their community of contributors.

“This is one of the first modern chips I’ve heard of that’s actually been open sourced,” said Adafruit’s Limor Fried during their show, Ask an Engineer on Wednesday night. “You can buy a Propeller 1 or you can completely simulate a Propeller 1 as well.”

The newly-released Verilog and top-level HDL files let you run the P8X32A design on two different FPGA boards, the Terasic Cyclone IV DE0-Nano or the Altera DE2-115. Full details and design files can be found here.

Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

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