How long will they last?

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bjjones37
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How long will they last?

Post by bjjones37 »

At this point in time, most of my classic computer equipment is between 30 and 40 years old. I am very please with how it has all stood the test of time and usage (with proper surge suppressors of course). I do not have any modern wintel computers that even come close. Most laptops seem to fail after 3 or 4 years. I managed to make my windows tower last by replacing everything in the case piecemeal over the past 15 years. It is now officially a WIndows XP dinosaur. But enough reminiscing.

How long is an FPGA system likely to last? With the constant reprogramming and regular usage, how long before those gates and latches tightly integrated into that massive chip begin to break down? It occurs to me that FPGAs were originally developed to model and design circuits and systems for production, so they really do not need to last all that long. So what kind of reasonable lifespan can I anticipate from a MiST or MisTer, or Zemmix? Will I still be using my MiST unit 30 years from now like I am my Atari 800XL or Atari 520ST?
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by NegSol »

That is not how FPGA work internally.

May I recommend to check out FPGA explanation videos like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUsHwi4M4xE

--

In a nutshell (how I understand it) - It is mostly lookup tables that are configured from rom (sd-card in MiSTer terms). So no shortened life to be expected from normal MiSTer use - it is not like with flash cards or anything. :mrgreen:
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by ijor »

bjjones37 wrote:How long is an FPGA system likely to last? With the constant reprogramming and regular usage, how long before those gates and latches tightly integrated into that massive chip begin to break down? It occurs to me that FPGAs were originally developed to model and design circuits and systems for production, so they really do not need to last all that long. So what kind of reasonable lifespan can I anticipate from a MiST or MisTer, or Zemmix? Will I still be using my MiST unit 30 years from now like I am my Atari 800XL or Atari 520ST?
The low cost FPGA devices that we typically use don't have any kind of internal component that would make them last less than any other digital chip, like, say, a CPU. Programming is internally stored on static RAM. You can reprogram the FPGA constantly and I doubt it would affect the lifespan significantly.

Some more expensive FPGA devices have internal flash or fuses that are used for instance, for storing encryption keys. Some FPGAs (not the ones on the MiST or MiSTer) have non volatile internal configuration storage as it is more common on CPLDs. In these cases there is obviously an issue of endurance and retention.

I don't know if you would be able to use your MiST in 30 years. But in any case, I would expect analog component, and even connectors, would fail before the FPGA itself.
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bjjones37
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by bjjones37 »

This is quite reassuring. I was hoping for my MiST and MiSTer to last a good long time. I could not find any documentation on the mtbf on FPGAs. There is a reliability report at Intel for the Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA (which I just found) which lists the FIT as 13.5.
https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/p ... /rr/rr.pdf
If I am looking at the right figures and calculating this right, then apparently it has an MTBF of 74074074. I believe the units are in hours. Could someone confirm this for me?
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by Newsdee »

If you are worried about longevity... just buy a spare and keep it safely boxed (after setting it up and testing it works fine).
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by ijor »

bjjones37 wrote:This is quite reassuring. I was hoping for my MiST and MiSTer to last a good long time. I could not find any documentation on the mtbf on FPGAs. There is a reliability report at Intel for the Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA (which I just found) which lists the FIT as 13.5.
I'm not sure those figures make much sense for our purposes. Those reports are more for critical applications, which is obviously not our case.

Nobody knows for sure how much time those devices usually last. But you would find that people keep using FPGAs for decades, same as CPUs and other VLSI chips.

Again, it is very likely that other components at "our" boards will fail much earlier.
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by MasterOfGizmo »

The lifetime of a semiconductor is usually affected by temperature. The hotter they run the sooner they typically fail. E.g. the c64 PLA gets pretty hot and is a very common source for problems. The entire MIST runs at room temperature and barely anything gets even warm at all. I expect the board to last very long. The sd cards may need replacement and the connectors may fail due to wear. But that can be repaired probably even 30 years from now.
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Re: How long will they last?

Post by ex68k »

MasterOfGizmo wrote:The lifetime of a semiconductor is usually affected by temperature....
to put it a little differently:

as a simple rule, every increase by 10 degrees, halves the lifetime of semiconductors. Your quoted MTBF/FIT rates assume room temperature ( I guess, not knowing where you got them from)

So, beware of everything what has a propeller on it, if you care about 30 years ;-)
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