Parallax’s Propeller 1 Silicon Goes Open Source


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.

1 thought on “Parallax’s Propeller 1 Silicon Goes Open Source

  1. AdamTolley says:

    That’s fantastic. Propeller is a really neat platform with a good community around it, and it seems just a strange accident that it doesn’t have the same sort of visibility that arduino does.

    edit:: below is not completely true, which is good

    Except I would like to see more mac and linux support from them. Maybe they can open source the propeller tool next, cross platform improvements would soon follow.


    This definitely has me taking another look at propeller though.

    1. Steph Lindsay says:

      Come take a look! You will find open-source PropellerGCC and SimpleIDE programming software for C/C++ programming, available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. While the Propeller Tool itself cannot be made open-source, the PropellerIDE project is covering that base as well.

      1. AdamTolley says:

        groovy! But what about spin? I have used BST before, it would be nice to see it get a little more official support through whatever licensing acrobatics would be required.

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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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