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Altera Master Programming Unit Model PLE3-12

and it's accompanying LPx Logic programming card.

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Altera MAX+PLUS & MAX+PLUS II programming Software

The Altera PLE3-12 Master Programming Unit, consists of three main components. The MPU Base module, the LP3 Logic Programming card and an Adapter which has a Chip Socket to accommodate Logic programming for your target device.

Now of course the Altera MAX+PLUS software was the GUI required in order to program your target device. Shown below is the Altera MAX+PLUS® V2.6 software GUI for PC DOS software that was used with the PLE3-12 MPU and the LP3 Logic Programmer Card. This particular setup was only used to program Altera Classic devices.

Using the updated PLE3-12A MPU, users could now program Altera MAX5000 logic devices.

This software release is dated 1990.


View the README.TXT file below for a list of supported Altera CPLD's for the MAX+PLUS Software Version 2.71.


Shown below is the Altera MAX+PLUS® II software GUI for Windows 98/2000 Operating system. This software is used with the PLE3-12/12A MPU and the PL-ASAP2 MPU with either the LP4/LP5/LP6 Logic Programmer Cards.



Altera PLE3-12 & PLE3-12A MPU Base Module

Shown below is the Altera PLE3-12 & PLE3-12A MPU modules.

The PLE3-12 & the PLE3-12A MPU base units are virtually identical, except for the fact that the PLE3-12A MPU supports the programming of Altera MAX components using the appropriate adapters.


The LP3 Logic programmer card as shown below is the original interface card that was used with the PLE3-12 MPU. The LP4 and LP5 and LP6 programmer cards are used with the PLE3-12A MPU. The LP6 programmer card is also used with the Altera PL-ASAP2 MPU.


For full details see the PLE3-12 & PLE3-12A Datasheet link below:

Also check out these Altera Programming hardware datasheets:

The PLE3-12 base frame is made of a heavy steel which has been painted with a Gray paint through an Electrostatic painting process. Each Altera PLED adapter has also gone through this same process which gives the equipment a very clean professional look. The Base module has two ZIF sockets (EP320 & EP 1210) which are the main interface connections for programming components. The various PLED adapters that are available for programming other components attach overtop of this base unit, using both of these Default ZIF sockets to interface the attaching sockets for programming other components. See the images Below.

The Logic signals originating from the LP3 Logic Programming card (Shown Below), are fed through a Ribbon cable to the MPU Base Module. The Ribbon cable has a DB25 male connector (Shown above) which attaches to the LP3 Logic Programming card.

Having a DB25 connector on the LP* series cards, is actually one of the prime reasons these Altera cards have come to be extremely rare. When these Altera MPU programming units were released, the main consumers, were Engineers working for Large R&D companies. These programming units were quite expensive originally. As time went on, and the MPU units became discontinued, some of the equipment was sold off or ended up being put away into storage.

Usually what ended up happening, was as new Engineers and Technicians were hired, and the computer towers that housed the precious LP* cards, where brought out to be used as regular office PC's, the LP* cards were frequently mistaken for an LPT Printer Port interface card, all due to the DB25 Connector. Usually when the Technician couldn't get the Printer to work, the cards were tossed or thrown into a parts bin to be sold off for scrap or junked into the garbage. YIKKKEESSS!!! The thought of that just Hurts! If only Altera had chosen to use a more expensive looking connector, more of these units might have been saved.



Texas Instruments Release of the


Around 1988, Texas Instuments released a version of the PLE3-12A Master Programming unit under the TI name.

The Development Kits were entitled:

"TI Programmable Logic Development System"

The system was released with TI's custom software package entitled "LogiCaps" and was released on 5¼-inch Floppy Disks. The system came with a User manual and either an Altera LP3 or an LP4 Logic Programming ISA card. The cards simply had the Altera Logo covered with a TI Logo sticker placed overtop. The Altera Serial numbers were also covered with TI's own serial number tracking decals.

See the Images below:


TI PLE3-12A Programmable Logic Dev. System with LP4 Logic Programming card




Altera LP3 Logic Programming Card

Shown below is the Altera LP3 Logic Programming card.

This one is dated 1985. I snagged this one off eBay not too long ago. A nice little addition to my Altera hardware collection.

The LP3 card was obsoleted prior to version 3.0 of the Altera MAX+PLUS® software. This card is not supported in any later version of the MAX+PLUS II software and it was only used to program the Altera Classic® devices using the original PLE3-12 MPU.








Altera LP4 Logic Programming Card


The LP4 logic programming card as shown above, were also discontinued before the later releases of the Altera MAX+Plus II software, It was replaced by the LP5 and then the LP6 programmer cards. However, certain versions of the Altera MAX+PLUS and MAX+PLUS II software still supports the use of these cards if you can ever find one. I'm still on the Hunt for one of these Rare LP4 and LP5 interface Cards. I'm also looking for Pictures of the LP5 card, so if you locate any please email them to me so I can post them here for all to see. :)



If you're into the older Altera CPLD's you can Join my Altera Yahoo Group!

A great resource for Altera Manuals and Software but mainly a fantastic way to connect with other vintage Altera users.