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Motorola ColdFire

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Title: Motorola ColdFire  
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Subject: Microprocessor
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Motorola ColdFire

The Freescale ColdFire is a microprocessor that derives from the Motorola 68000 family architecture, manufactured for embedded systems development by Freescale Semiconductor (formerly the semiconductor division of Motorola).

Instruction set

The ColdFire instruction set is "assembly source" compatible (by means of translation software available from the vendor) and not entirely object code compatible with the 68000. When compared to classic 68k hardware, the instruction set differs mainly in that it no longer has support for the binary-coded decimal (BCD) packed data format; it removes a number of other, less used instructions; and most instructions that are kept support fewer addressing modes. Also, floating point intermediates are 64 bits and not 80 bits as in the 68881 and 68882 coprocessors. The instructions are only 16, 32, or 48 bits long, a simplification compared to the 68000 series.


In 2006, Debian project was looking into making its m68k port compatible with the ColdFires,[1] as there are ColdFire models that are much faster than the 68060. They can be clocked as high as 300  MHz, compared with 75  MHz for a 68060[2] (the fastest "real" m68k processor) without overclocking. Stallion Technologies ePipe[3] and Secure Computing SnapGear[4] security appliances are based on ColdFire processors. There are ColdFire Linux-based SBCs with Ethernet and CompactFlash as small as 23×55  mm or 45×45  mm[5] or based on CompactFlash (37×43 mm) itself.[6]

There are five generations or versions of the ColdFire available from Freescale:

  • v1: Intended to support migration from 8-bit microcontrollers, it is a cut-down version of the v2 processor-wise. It was launched in 2006, 12 years after the original ColdFire. It is designed to easily replace the 8-bit Freescale 68HC08 microcontrollers and compete with low-end ARM chips.
  • v2: The original ColdFire core launched in 1994. Single-issue pipeline, no MMU, no FPU. Versions are also available with MAC and enhanced MAC units.
  • v3: Added an optional MAC unit.
  • v4: Limited superscalar core.
  • v4e (or eV4 in some documents): Enhanced version of the v4, launched in 2000. Adds optional MMU, FPU, and enhanced MAC unit to the architecture.
  • v5: Fully superscalar core.

There is also the Fido 1100, a microcontroller launched in 2007 aimed at predictable embedded control systems such as Industrial Ethernet applications using the 68k/CPU32 instruction set. However, Fido has its own unique architecture and shares the instruction set with 68k only.[7]

In November 2006, Freescale announced that ColdFire microprocessor cores were available for license as semiconductor Intellectual Property through their IP licensing and support partner IPextreme Inc.[8][9] ColdFire v1 core is now available under Free license (and no per use royalty) for Altera Cyclone-III FPGA's.[10][11]

In September 2007, Freescale launched the 32-bit Flexis microcontroller family with a ColdFire CPU core.[12]

In June 2010, Freescale announced the ColdFire+ line, which is a ColdFire V1 core using a 90 nm TFS technology [13]

The future of the ColdFire architecture is uncertain given that Freescale has been focusing on ARM-based cores in this market segment.[14]


External links

  • Freescale Semiconductor's Official ColdFire Site
  • Vaporware
  • Debian m68k/ColdFire porting project.
  • ColdFire Background Debugging (BDM) project for GDB.
  • ColdFire emulator
  • The eCos and RTEMS open source real-time operating systems.
  • Differences between ColdFire & 68K
  • uTasker project for V2 MCU, including Kirin3 Free for non-commercial work and fully supported
  • Atari ColdFire Project aka "FireBee" an Atari ST/TT clone based on a ColdFire processor
  • ColdFire Macro Assembler and Simulator Open source integrated assembler and emulator.
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