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ARM Displays New Graphics Controller
VIDC20 Offers High Quality Sound and Vision for Multimedia

Advanced RISC Machines has announced the VIDC20, a high performance video controller that consumes very little power (typically 0.3W) and can directly drive both LCD screens and CRT video systems. The design has been produced to meet the needs of a wide range of video systems - from power sensitive portable computers through to desktop multimedia workstations and from graphics accelerators to games systems. The versatile device includes programmable display formats capable of supporting VGA, Super VGA and XGA levels of resolution at up to 16 million colours. Other features include a hardware cursor, programmable pixel rates and an on-chip sound system.

VIDC20's low power architecture will drive the LCD screen of a portable computer directly, whilst preserving battery life, using a patented, 16-level grey scale algorithm to give high quality picture rendition. However VIDC20 is also capable of directly driving a colour CRT, allowing the same portable computer to use a colour monitor on the desk without additional components. The power management techniques ensure that functions not in use, such as the video digital to analogue converters (DAC) and sound DACs do not consume power. In addition the on-board palette has been segmented so that only one eighth is enabled at any one time.

VIDC20 was designed with the needs for higher levels of display resolution in mind. The chip can be used to generate 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32-bits/pixel formats at data rates of up to 160Mbytes/second. The on-board 8-bit linear DACs gives a total of 16 million possible colours at rates of up to 100MHz and drive doubly terminated 75j lines directly. The inclusion of an on-chip phase comparator, when used with a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO), allows a single reference clock to generate all of the frequencies for any display mode. Tudor Brown, ARM's Engineering Manager, commented: "By understanding how graphics systems are built we have designed a chip that can be used cost-effectively in a wide range of applications."

VIDC20 also supports a hardware cursor in all of its modes - high resolution, interlace and LCD. By offering cursor support on-chip the designer benefits from higher performance and lower software overhead resulting in a better "look and feel" for the user. The cursor is 32 pixels wide, an unlimited number of pixels high and can be displayed in 4 colours from its own 28-bit wide palette.

As well as providing a programmable display system the chip also supports two different sound systems. An on-chip system incorporates an 8-bit mu-law DAC providing up to eight channels of stereo sound. A 32-bit serial sound interface output enables the connection of external CD DACs. The on-chip sound system makes the development of powerful yet low chip-count X-terminal controllers straightforward. For higher quality multi-media applications requiring both sound and vision the design provides a straightforward interface.

The design of a product incorporating both high speed digital and analogue circuitry requires a close relationship between the designer and the manufacturer. ARM collaborates closely with its semiconductor partners - VLSI Technology Inc. and GEC Plessey Semiconductors Ltd - on all phases of the design from specification through to production, to ensure the smooth transition from development to volume manufacture.

Jeff Hendy, VLSI's Director of New Business Development, said: "Our close relationship with ARM over the past several years has enabled us to offer our customers a unique spectrum of solutions based on performance and flexibility. The introduction of the VIDC20 extends this spectrum of solutions and delivers to our customers not only high graphics performance capabilities, but a broad range of graphics options on a single device as well."

The ARM design approach is to make its products available as both packaged parts and as ASIC macrocells. VIDC20 was no exception and was designed using a modular approach to allow different versions to be created quickly and easily to customer specification. Robin Saxby, Managing Director of ARM commented: "Our QuickDesignTM approach using functional building blocks allows us to produce our products very quickly and easily, giving our customers exactly what they want, when they want it, without the need for a complete redesign every time a change is desired. ARM customers can now have the benefits of the VIDC20 in a library for inclusion in other ARM circuits."

The VIDC20 is available from VLSI Technology in a 128 pin PQFP package. Budgetary pricing for the part is $36 in 1K quantities.

Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) was formed in 1990 by Acorn Computers, Apple Computer and VLSI Technology. ARM focuses on high performance, low cost, low power consumption 32-bit RISC processors for embedded control, computing, digital single processing and portable applications. ARM also designs peripherals, supporting software and hardware tools. ARM has licensed its technology to two semiconductor product partners, GEC Plessey Semiconductors and VLSI Technology. Both manufacture and sell ARM products world-wide; ARM also offers design service, consultancy, feasibility studies, training and supply of prototypes.


ISSUED BY: Ralph Tuckwell, MMC Group plc, Mitchell House, Montem Road, New Malden, Surrey KT3 3QW. Tel: (081) 336 1282. Fax: (081) 949 2603.

The above is a Press release from ARM Limited, 28/10/92