VHDL newbie: building sequential circuits with basic gates


G

GomoX

Hey everyone,

As an assignment for a course in my CS degree, I have to build a D
latch, a D flip flop and a 1 bit register with VHDL. I have been given
the "process" versions of those and I have to rewrite them using
elementary gates and feedback connections.

My teachers are not really profficient in the topic (sadly) but we are
going through hoops to get stuff working. I have read on several pages
that because of limitations in VHDL simulations, basic sequential
circuits such as the latch/ff should not be implemented with gates but
using processes instead.

We are sure that the circuits we described using the component-based
approach in VHDL correctly mimic the hardware versions of those.
Still, behaviours are erratic and GHDL is giving away cryptic "stop-
delta" compilation errors that we can't fix.

This appears to be somewhat confirmed by the fact that this page (the
only one I've been able to find that provides a gate-based
implementation of latches and ffs) does it with some obscure library
reference that I have not available (lsi_10k) and a complicated
definitions instead of usual signaling and port mapping with and's and
not's.
http://esd.cs.ucr.edu/labs/tutorial/dff_gate.vhd

Feel free to browse through the code by checking out with anonymous
SVN:
$ svn checkout http://orga1-2007.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/tp1/
orga1-2007
You can then run "make tb_reg1bit" and examine the resulting VCD to
see what's going on.

I am using this version at home, but the same problems arise with the
debian etch versions at my college:
GHDL 0.26 (20070408) [Sokcho edition]
Compiled with GNAT Version: 4.1.220061115prerelease

My knowledge of VHDL is very close to nil and documentation appears
very sparse on the web. I could really use some help, so thanks in
advance for reading.

Gonzalo
 
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K

KJ

GomoX said:
Hey everyone,

As an assignment for a course in my CS degree, I have to build a D
latch, a D flip flop and a 1 bit register with VHDL. I have been given
the "process" versions of those and I have to rewrite them using
elementary gates and feedback connections.

My teachers are not really profficient in the topic (sadly)
Which topic? Boolean logic or VHDL?
but we are
going through hoops to get stuff working.
Does 'working' mean that the simulation is correct or does it mean that
actual hardware has been built and tested? The advice that you'll get kind
of depends on that (more on that later).
I have read on several pages
that because of limitations in VHDL simulations, basic sequential
circuits such as the latch/ff should not be implemented with gates but
using processes instead.
The limitation comes about because of the interaction of two things:
1. Simulation allows for zero propogation delays through logic
2. The logic type most commonly used (i.e. std_logic) allows signals to be
'unknown'.

Neither of these two things model the real world behaviour of anything at
all....and yet they are both powerful aids for designing logic properly and
are 'good' things from a design perspective.

Try simulating the simplest feedback element available, the oscillator. The
logic to describe it is
x <= not(x);

If you use std_logic type for 'x' then it will get initialized to unknown at
the start of the simulation. The 'not' of an unknown is also unknown so x
will never change. This is a result of #2.

If you try to use type boolean instead which only has TRUE and FALSE and no
'unknowns' then x will keep toggling back and forth between TRUE and FALSE
but the simulation time will never advance. This is a result of #1.
We are sure that the circuits we described using the component-based
approach in VHDL correctly mimic the hardware versions of those.
Still, behaviours are erratic and GHDL is giving away cryptic "stop-
delta" compilation errors that we can't fix.
See above discussion for the likely cause of the error.
This appears to be somewhat confirmed by the fact that this page (the
only one I've been able to find that provides a gate-based
implementation of latches and ffs) does it with some obscure library
reference that I have not available (lsi_10k) and a complicated
definitions instead of usual signaling and port mapping with and's and
not's.
Nothing complicated is needed. If this is a simulation only type of
assignment that you're doing then you simply need to avoid #1 and #2. To
get around #1 you make sure that every logical operation has a non zero
propogation delay (or at least somewhere in your feedback loop there is a
non-zero delay for every possible path). To get around #2 you need to not
use std_logic type, use a logic type that only has two states.

If this is intended to be built into real hardware though, don't do either
of those two things. Designing a feedback loop of anything without a proper
storage element will always result in flaky behaviour at best. How you
implement it is also be a function of which target technology you're
planning on implementing it in (hence all the postings that you've seen
discouraging building flops out of gates). Since you didn't mention
anything about a target device I'm guessing that this might be a simulation
only assignment but in case it's not I added this caution.

Kevin Jennings
 
B

Brian Drummond

Hey everyone,

As an assignment for a course in my CS degree, I have to build a D
latch, a D flip flop and a 1 bit register with VHDL. I have been given
the "process" versions of those and I have to rewrite them using
elementary gates and feedback connections.

My teachers are not really profficient in the topic (sadly) but we are
going through hoops to get stuff working.

Back to basics ... so look at the source materials from when those were
the basic building blocks.

If you have access to a university library (or even a decently stocked
engineer's bookshelf) you could do a lot worse than looking at the
original Texas Instruments TTL Data Book.

Or maybe you can find the 7474 or 74LS74 datasheets online?
Google is your friend...

http://www.datasheetcatalog.com/datasheets_pdf/7/4/L/S/74LS74.shtml
and look at the Motorola one for example

- Brian
 
C

Colin Paul Gloster

In timestamped Thu,
17 May 2007 07:22:50 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]

[..]
1. Simulation allows for zero propogation delays through logic
2. The logic type most commonly used (i.e. std_logic) allows signals to be
'unknown'.

Neither of these two things model the real world behaviour of anything at
all....and yet they are both powerful aids for designing logic properly and
are 'good' things from a design perspective.

[..]"


Hi,

How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

Regards,
Colin Paul Gloster
 
J

Jonathan Bromley

How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

I'm stumped.

That question might be just plain stupid, but given
your posting history that seems extremely unlikely.

It might be a look-how-smart-I-am meta-question,
in which case it deserves a meta-answer such as
"because the world would be less enriched without
them".

It might be provocative, from someone who knows
a lot about computer science and software but somehow
sees hardware design in its current mainstream form
as being irrelevant, misguided and beneath his dignity.
If that's the case, then I decline to answer.

If it were a question from someone who was trying
to get to grips with digital simulation for the very
first time, I would answer something like this:
because zero delays and specialised logic-modelling
data types provide part of the large and complex
framework that we use to get event-driven simulators
to model digital systems with reasonable efficiency
and with a level of approximation to reality that is
adequate for many practical design problems
and then I would be obliged to tell the querant to
go away, read a book and try some stuff, and come back
again when they had enough concrete experience to be
able to ask questions that help to move things forward.

Or perhaps it's a troll.

Who knows? The world will continue to rotate, and I will
continue to do realistic and useful digital simulation with
zero delays and std_logic, whether or not people ask such
unanswerable questions.
--
Jonathan Bromley, Consultant

DOULOS - Developing Design Know-how
VHDL * Verilog * SystemC * e * Perl * Tcl/Tk * Project Services

Doulos Ltd., 22 Market Place, Ringwood, BH24 1AW, UK
(e-mail address removed)
http://www.MYCOMPANY.com

The contents of this message may contain personal views which
are not the views of Doulos Ltd., unless specifically stated.
 
C

cs_posting

Hey everyone,

As an assignment for a course in my CS degree, I have to build a D
latch, a D flip flop and a 1 bit register with VHDL. I have been given
the "process" versions of those and I have to rewrite them using
elementary gates and feedback connections.

My teachers are not really profficient in the topic (sadly) but we are
going through hoops to get stuff working. I have read on several pages
that because of limitations in VHDL simulations, basic sequential
circuits such as the latch/ff should not be implemented with gates but
using processes instead.

Yes, you really don't want to do that. Looping back a combinatorial
output makes a sort of infinite loop of dependencies for the simulator
to try to make sense of. In the real world it works because of delay
and capacitance and stuff like that, but an HDL simulator it's not
designed to do physical modeling of actual devices! Instead it's
designed to simulate the application-level behaviour of devices that
can be reasonably represented with just a few paramaters (like
propogation delay), and having just a few states, (like 1, 0,
undriven, and unkown)

If you want to do something like what you are talking about, try
playing with software that's designed to simulate the analog behaviour
of real devices, which is to say spice. Get yourself some simple
logic gate circuits to put in a spice deck and play with graphing how
that responds over time to "digital" inputs.
 
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C

Colin Paul Gloster

In timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100, Jonathan Bromley
<[email protected]> posted:
"On 17 May 2007 12:15:24 GMT, Colin Paul Gloster
How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

I'm stumped.

That question might be just plain stupid, but given
your posting history that seems extremely unlikely.

[..]"

Thank you.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"It might be a look-how-smart-I-am meta-question,
[..]

It might be provocative, [..]

[..]

Or perhaps it's a troll."

No, I am genuinely trying to learn why they would be useful. I really
do appreciate your responses to posts I make as you make much more of
an effort to teach me than anyone in the university I currently
attend. Unfortunately you do not receive money for this, and I feel
bad about that.

Kevin Jennings said in
that they are useful but aside from that, everything he said about
them in that post was a claim that they are unlike real hardware and
contributed to Gonzalo's problem (but I accept that something can
contribute to a problem but be useful in other situations). Furthermore,
he advocated not using std_logic in

in February 2007:
"[..]

[..] Your other signals are probably std_logic types which can have
multiple
drivers so the compiler doesn't complain but if you could simulate
you'd
probably find that all of your std_logic signals are always 'X' and
then
have to debug down to why that is. That's why it's better to use
std_ulogic
since the compiler will again immediately complain (like it is doing
for
you
with type 'integer') about having more than one process driving a
signal
of
that type."


Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"If it were a question from someone who was trying
to get to grips with digital simulation for the very
first time, I would answer something like this:
because zero delays and specialised logic-modelling
data types provide part of the large and complex
framework that we use to get event-driven simulators
to model digital systems with reasonable efficiency
and with a level of approximation to reality that is
adequate for many practical design problems"

I can appreciate that this may be relevant to zero delays but I would
like to know more about that, and it does not seem to help me with
determining why someone who advised against std_logic would write
that std_logic is "powerful" and "'good'".

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"and then I would be obliged to tell the querant to
go away, read a book and try some stuff, and come back
again when they had enough concrete experience to be
able to ask questions that help to move things forward.

[..]"

In in a different
thread Jonathan Bromley did not express much fondness of books so
which book or books would be good for learning about this? Thank you
for your time and suggestions.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"Who knows? [..]"

It would seem that you do.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"[..]

It might be provocative, from someone who knows
a lot about computer science and software but somehow
sees hardware design in its current mainstream form
as being irrelevant, misguided and beneath his dignity.
If that's the case, then I decline to answer.

[..]"

No matter how good I think I am at anything, there will always be a
lot of room for improvement. Though a casual glance at my posts re
software (e.g. the terms Ada; UML; C; and C++ would be helpful in
checking how I think about that) would give the correct impression
that I believe that people involved in mainstream software design are
misguided. Neither computer science nor software is intrinsically
better than hardware design.

Sincerely,
Colin Paul Gloster
 
D

David R Brooks

Yes, you really don't want to do that. Looping back a combinatorial
output makes a sort of infinite loop of dependencies for the simulator
to try to make sense of. In the real world it works because of delay
and capacitance and stuff like that, but an HDL simulator it's not
designed to do physical modeling of actual devices! Instead it's
designed to simulate the application-level behaviour of devices that
can be reasonably represented with just a few paramaters (like
propogation delay), and having just a few states, (like 1, 0,
undriven, and unkown)

If you want to do something like what you are talking about, try
playing with software that's designed to simulate the analog behaviour
of real devices, which is to say spice. Get yourself some simple
logic gate circuits to put in a spice deck and play with graphing how
that responds over time to "digital" inputs.
If you *must* build gate models in VHDL, be sure to include a delay in
your gate, eg OUT <= not(IN1 and IN2) after 2 ns;
 
J

jtw

Zero delay: a useful approximation for many portions of many design
implementations. It significantly speeds up simulation, and is often
appropriate for synchronous designs.

std_logic: a previous poster mentioned that the values may be unknown.
True. But they may also be explicitly initialized; it is often useful to do
that in simulation. You can also use appropriate reset signals to force the
issue.

I would suppose that there are least two reasons for the homework problem:
1. Make the student think about the underlying architecture.
2. Realize how painful it can be to not use simplifying assumptions.
3. Eventually, learn when to make the trade-off between accuracy and
speed.

An additional note: delays in VHDL can be inertial or transport. For your
gate-level model, you need to consider which is appropriate for your use.
See http://www.gmvhdl.com/delay.htm [google(inertial delay vhdl)] for a
description of their usage.

JTW

Colin Paul Gloster said:
In timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100, Jonathan Bromley
<[email protected]> posted:
"On 17 May 2007 12:15:24 GMT, Colin Paul Gloster
How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

I'm stumped.

That question might be just plain stupid, but given
your posting history that seems extremely unlikely.

[..]"

Thank you.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"It might be a look-how-smart-I-am meta-question,
[..]

It might be provocative, [..]

[..]

Or perhaps it's a troll."

No, I am genuinely trying to learn why they would be useful. I really
do appreciate your responses to posts I make as you make much more of
an effort to teach me than anyone in the university I currently
attend. Unfortunately you do not receive money for this, and I feel
bad about that.

Kevin Jennings said in
that they are useful but aside from that, everything he said about
them in that post was a claim that they are unlike real hardware and
contributed to Gonzalo's problem (but I accept that something can
contribute to a problem but be useful in other situations). Furthermore,
he advocated not using std_logic in
in February 2007:
"[..]

[..] Your other signals are probably std_logic types which can have
multiple
drivers so the compiler doesn't complain but if you could simulate
you'd
probably find that all of your std_logic signals are always 'X' and
then
have to debug down to why that is. That's why it's better to use
std_ulogic
since the compiler will again immediately complain (like it is doing
for
you
with type 'integer') about having more than one process driving a
signal
of
that type."


Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"If it were a question from someone who was trying
to get to grips with digital simulation for the very
first time, I would answer something like this:
because zero delays and specialised logic-modelling
data types provide part of the large and complex
framework that we use to get event-driven simulators
to model digital systems with reasonable efficiency
and with a level of approximation to reality that is
adequate for many practical design problems"

I can appreciate that this may be relevant to zero delays but I would
like to know more about that, and it does not seem to help me with
determining why someone who advised against std_logic would write
that std_logic is "powerful" and "'good'".

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"and then I would be obliged to tell the querant to
go away, read a book and try some stuff, and come back
again when they had enough concrete experience to be
able to ask questions that help to move things forward.

[..]"

In in a different
thread Jonathan Bromley did not express much fondness of books so
which book or books would be good for learning about this? Thank you
for your time and suggestions.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"Who knows? [..]"

It would seem that you do.

Jonathan Bromley wrote in a post timestamped Thu, 17
May 2007 13:44:38 +0100:

"[..]

It might be provocative, from someone who knows
a lot about computer science and software but somehow
sees hardware design in its current mainstream form
as being irrelevant, misguided and beneath his dignity.
If that's the case, then I decline to answer.

[..]"

No matter how good I think I am at anything, there will always be a
lot of room for improvement. Though a casual glance at my posts re
software (e.g. the terms Ada; UML; C; and C++ would be helpful in
checking how I think about that) would give the correct impression
that I believe that people involved in mainstream software design are
misguided. Neither computer science nor software is intrinsically
better than hardware design.

Sincerely,
Colin Paul Gloster
 
M

Martin Thompson

Colin Paul Gloster said:
In timestamped Thu,
17 May 2007 07:22:50 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]

[..]
1. Simulation allows for zero propogation delays through logic
2. The logic type most commonly used (i.e. std_logic) allows signals to be
'unknown'.

Neither of these two things model the real world behaviour of anything at
all....and yet they are both powerful aids for designing logic properly and
are 'good' things from a design perspective.

[..]"


Hi,

How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

Because they allow you to create a simulation of your circuit at a
level of abstraction removed from those details. If you follow a
standard synchronous design template, you can then use a synthesiser
to get a netlist that does the same thing as your simulations.

Lots of us do it all the time :)

Cheers,
Martin
 
K

KJ

Colin Paul Gloster said:
In timestamped Thu,
17 May 2007 07:22:50 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]

[..]
1. Simulation allows for zero propogation delays through logic
2. The logic type most commonly used (i.e. std_logic) allows signals to be
'unknown'.

Neither of these two things model the real world behaviour of anything at
all....and yet they are both powerful aids for designing logic properly
and
are 'good' things from a design perspective.

[..]"


Hi,

How can zero delays or std_logic be useful?

Regards,
Colin Paul Gloster

As to how zero delays can be useful, I'd say that from the perspective of
designing logic to implement a particular function the delay used is usually
irrelevant so zero delay is just as useful as 1 ns, 1 ps, or any other
delay. If there was some 'default' non-zero delay built into the design
language or the simulator then no doubt that default time will just get in
the way of somebody trying to create some new design at some point because
they are trying to design something that needs to run at or near a speed
that is comparable to this 'default' time. The definition of 'delta time'
which is infintesimally small and simply represents extra churns by the
simulation engine that are still completed in 'zero time' permanently gets
around this issue. The fact that zero delay is not physically possible in
the real world just never gets in the way of designing whatever it is that
you're designing.

std_logic (and std_ulogic) are useful because of the meta-logical values
like 'Z', 'U', and 'X' even though in the real world, logical signals will
never be 'U' or 'X', they will always be at a voltage/current level that
corresponds to a logical '0' or '1' or tri-stated. The 'unknowns' are great
because when you're testing your design in simulation those unknown values
will propogate through the logic and allow for very rapid determination of
logic holes in the design. Using a type such as 'boolean' or 'bit' to do
your design would result in these signals getting assigned default values
that may or may not correspond to what a real device would do and yet by
virtue of whatever value happened to get assigned, this may cause downstream
logic to appear to behave properly in simulation but fail in the real world.
This is the types of thing that the 'unknowns' flush out quite quickly

From a modelling perspective, when you're trying to create a behavioural
model of some existing thing the opposite can usually apply. 'Zero' delays
and 'unknowns' for logic don't have much value. Since the original poster
was querying about constructing storage elements from basic logic gates,
this would fall into the 'modelling side' rather than the 'design side' of
things so I put my 2 cents in with that in mind and added the caution about
not trying to use that advice if you're doing design.

Kevin Jennings
 
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C

Colin Paul Gloster

In timestamped Sat,
19 May 2007 21:33:08 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]

As to how zero delays can be useful, I'd say that from the perspective of
designing logic to implement a particular function the delay used is usually
irrelevant so zero delay is just as useful as 1 ns, 1 ps, or any other
delay. [..]"

Thank you for the insightful answer re zero delays.


"std_logic (and std_ulogic) are useful because of the meta-logical values
like 'Z', 'U', and 'X' even though in the real world, logical signals will
never be 'U' or 'X', they will always be at a voltage/current level that
corresponds to a logical '0' or '1' or tri-stated. The 'unknowns' are great
because when you're testing your design in simulation those unknown values
will propogate through the logic and allow for very rapid determination of
logic holes in the design. Using a type such as 'boolean' or 'bit' to do
your design would result in these signals getting assigned default values
[..]

[..]"

This is more an explanation of how std_logic is better than Boolean or
bit instead of an explanation of how std_logic could be considered to
be useful, as all of those advantages apply to std_ulogic as well and
std_ulogic seems to be better, which you stated in

in February 2007.

Regards,
Colin Paul Gloster
 
K

KJ

"std_logic (and std_ulogic) are useful because of the meta-logical values
like 'Z', 'U', and 'X' even though in the real world, logical signals will
never be 'U' or 'X', they will always be at a voltage/current level that
corresponds to a logical '0' or '1' or tri-stated. The 'unknowns' are
great
because when you're testing your design in simulation those unknown values
will propogate through the logic and allow for very rapid determination of
logic holes in the design. Using a type such as 'boolean' or 'bit' to do
your design would result in these signals getting assigned default values
[..]

[..]"

This is more an explanation of how std_logic is better than Boolean or
bit instead of an explanation of how std_logic could be considered to
be useful, as all of those advantages apply to std_ulogic as well and
std_ulogic seems to be better, which you stated in
in February 2007.
I guess I'm not sure what you're getting at. It sounds like you accept my
explanation of how std_logic is better than boolean or bit in the particular
context that I've described but are not accepting that as being evidence of
std_logic being 'useful'.

std_logic and std_ulogic share all of the same advantages and disadvantages
as they relate to the particular point of propagating 'unknown' logic
levels. I didn't distinguish between the two here since the essential
element was that the original poster had questions related to modelling and
by necessity was going to be creating combinatorial feedback paths in order
to create those models just like how it is done in an actual part. The
question seemed to be about how their are 'issues' in doing this and all I
was doing was clarifying those issues as they related to the particular
context of modelling storage elements as the poster was instructed to do.

The earlier discussion about std_ulogic having advantages over std_logic
that you referenced was in a totally different context, that of design.
While all of those advantages and disadvantages also apply to most
situations when modelling device behaviour, one particular situation where
they have a huge disadvantage is when modelling a combinatorial feedback
path as the original poster was trying to do.

Another example of such a difference between when a particular type is good
to use or not would be between the use of type 'unsigned' or type 'natural'
when creating a counter (or adder). In the hands of the more skilled
designer, type 'natural' is usually preferred; in the hands of the less
skilled the use of type 'natural' can cause problems because signals of type
natural will always magically initialize to 0 in simulation. In a real
device that might not happen to guarantee such behaviour and for which the
less skilled designer has forgotten to design in a path to reset the counter
they can run into issues when trying to get their stuff working on a real
board. Had that less skilled designer instead used an 'unsigned' type for
the counter they would have cleared up the design issues during simulation
because the forgotten reset path would have caused them to have 'unknowns'
that need to be cleared up. Here the difference in context is not the
design itself, it's not design versus modelling.it is simply the skill of
the designer. So which is the 'better' choice? You could say it's
'unsigned' but there is a simulation performance penalty to be paid in using
'unsigned' over 'natural'. So is that performance penalty a 'good' thing if
you have a skilled designer? Maybe not.

The bottom line is each data type is 'useful' and probably in some sense
'better' than any other data type in a particular context, but may fall flat
when used in a different context.

Kevin Jennings
 
C

Colin Paul Gloster

In timestamped Sun,
20 May 2007 17:19:47 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]
I guess I'm not sure what you're getting at. It sounds like you accept my
explanation of how std_logic is better than boolean or bit in the particular
context that I've described but are not accepting that as being evidence of
std_logic being 'useful'."

Yes.

"std_logic and std_ulogic share all of the same advantages and disadvantages
as they relate to the particular point of propagating 'unknown' logic
levels. I didn't distinguish between the two here since the essential
element was that the original poster had questions related to modelling and
by necessity was going to be creating combinatorial feedback paths in order
to create those models just like how it is done in an actual part. The
question seemed to be about how their are 'issues' in doing this and all I
was doing was clarifying those issues as they related to the particular
context of modelling storage elements as the poster was instructed to do.

The earlier discussion about std_ulogic having advantages over std_logic
that you referenced was in a totally different context, that of design."


Ah, I had not realized that std_ulogic is better than std_logic for
design but not modelling.



"While all of those advantages and disadvantages also apply to most
situations when modelling device behaviour, one particular situation where
they have a huge disadvantage is when modelling a combinatorial feedback
path as the original poster was trying to do."

Just to clarify: does std_ulogic have a huge disadvantage in contrast
to std_logic when modelling combinatorial feedback?



"[..] In the hands of the more skilled
designer, type 'natural' is usually preferred; in the hands of the less
skilled the use of type 'natural' can cause problems because signals of type
natural will always magically initialize to 0 in simulation. In a real
device that might not happen to guarantee such behaviour and for which the
less skilled designer has forgotten to design in a path to reset the counter
they can run into issues when trying to get their stuff working on a real
board. Had that less skilled designer instead used an 'unsigned' type for
the counter they would have cleared up the design issues during simulation
because the forgotten reset path would have caused them to have 'unknowns'
that need to be cleared up. Here the difference in context is not the
design itself, it's not design versus modelling.it is simply the skill of
the designer."

I understand and may agree with this point but I disagree with the
particular example as being an issue of skill... I would classify this
as more of an issue of whether the designers know what their tools do.

"[..]

The bottom line is each data type is 'useful' and probably in some sense
'better' than any other data type in a particular context, but may fall flat
when used in a different context."

Understood.

Thanks,
Colin Paul Gloster
 
K

KJ

Colin Paul Gloster said:
In timestamped Sun,
20 May 2007 17:19:47 -0400, "KJ" <[email protected]> posted:
"[..]

Just to clarify: does std_ulogic have a huge disadvantage in contrast
to std_logic when modelling combinatorial feedback?
No disadvantages that I can think of.

particular example as being an issue of skill... I would classify this
as more of an issue of whether the designers know what their tools do.
Knowledge of what the tools do and how best to use those tools is part of
what I would classify as 'skill', others may feel differently.

KJ
 
J

Jim Lewis

KJ,
Another example of such a difference between when a particular type is good
to use or not would be between the use of type 'unsigned' or type 'natural'
when creating a counter (or adder). In the hands of the more skilled
designer, type 'natural' is usually preferred; in the hands of the less
skilled the use of type 'natural' can cause problems because signals of type
natural will always magically initialize to 0 in simulation.

Do you find that you are getting good usage of carry out in
place of zero detection with natural?

For example, with unsigned, I can explicitly code the carry out
by adding one bit to my decrement resource (variable Count17)
as shown below. As a result, the zero detect is implemented as
a single carry/borrow cell (one LUT) for any size of counter.
If you do a test, make sure to use at least 16 bits so you can
notice the difference.

signal EndDetect : std_logic ;
signal Count16Reg : unsigned(15 downto 0) ;
....

process (...)
variable count17 : unsigned(16 downto 0) ;
begin
....
Count17 := Count17 - 1 ;
EndDetect <= Count17(16) ; -- carry bit.
Count16Reg <= Count17 (15 downto 0) ;
....

Now if the current generation of synthesis tools can always
extract this information from the following, then there is no
point in working to create the result with unsigned.

signal EndDetect : std_logic ;
signal CountReg : natural range 0 to 2**16 - 1 ;

....
CountReg <= CountReg - 1 ;
....
EndDetect <= '1' when CountReg = 0 else '0' ;


WRT initialzation, you will always find that in gate sims,
however, it is not a nice time to find it if a rookie forgets
to reset many registers.


Cheers,
Jim
 
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A

Andy

KJ,


Do you find that you are getting good usage of carry out in
place of zero detection with natural?

For example, with unsigned, I can explicitly code the carry out
by adding one bit to my decrement resource (variable Count17)
as shown below. As a result, the zero detect is implemented as
a single carry/borrow cell (one LUT) for any size of counter.
If you do a test, make sure to use at least 16 bits so you can
notice the difference.

signal EndDetect : std_logic ;
signal Count16Reg : unsigned(15 downto 0) ;
...

process (...)
variable count17 : unsigned(16 downto 0) ;
begin
...
Count17 := Count17 - 1 ;
EndDetect <= Count17(16) ; -- carry bit.
Count16Reg <= Count17 (15 downto 0) ;
...

Now if the current generation of synthesis tools can always
extract this information from the following, then there is no
point in working to create the result with unsigned.

signal EndDetect : std_logic ;
signal CountReg : natural range 0 to 2**16 - 1 ;

...
CountReg <= CountReg - 1 ;
...
EndDetect <= '1' when CountReg = 0 else '0' ;

WRT initialzation, you will always find that in gate sims,
however, it is not a nice time to find it if a rookie forgets
to reset many registers.

Cheers,
Jim

Here's how I do it with natural types:

signal count : natural range 0 to 2**numbits - 1;

....

if count - 1 < 0 then
do_end_of_count_stuff_here;
else
count <= count - 1;
end if;

The important thing to remember is integer expressions are independent
on the "width" of the operands, and are always 32 bit signed. The
reduction (and bounds checking) is done only upon assignment to a
constrained subtype of integer. Thus even though count cannot be less
than zero, count - 1, as an integer expression can be. DO NOT TRY THIS
WITH UNSIGNED!

This also works for 2**n-1 bit rollovers in up counters.

The synthesis tools recognize the common expression and share the
adder between them, adding an extra bit for the sign only in the
comparison, not in storage. More specifically, the synthesis tools
discard all the extra bits from the 32 bit expression except for the
result and the sign.


Andy
 
J

Jim Lewis

Andy,
Here's how I do it with natural types:

signal count : natural range 0 to 2**numbits - 1;

...

if count - 1 < 0 then
do_end_of_count_stuff_here;
else
count <= count - 1;
end if;

The important thing to remember is integer expressions are independent
on the "width" of the operands, and are always 32 bit signed. The
reduction (and bounds checking) is done only upon assignment to a
constrained subtype of integer. Thus even though count cannot be less
than zero, count - 1, as an integer expression can be. DO NOT TRY THIS
WITH UNSIGNED!

This also works for 2**n-1 bit rollovers in up counters.

The synthesis tools recognize the common expression and share the
adder between them, adding an extra bit for the sign only in the
comparison, not in storage. More specifically, the synthesis tools
discard all the extra bits from the 32 bit expression except for the
result and the sign.


Andy

Which tools have you verified that the synthesis tools give
you a good implementation?

Cheers,
Jim
 
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A

Andy

Andy,









Which tools have you verified that the synthesis tools give
you a good implementation?

Cheers,
Jim

Symplify, XST, and even the old Synopsys FC2 would handle it
appropriately. I'm pretty sure Precision and Quartus handle it as
well.

Oh yeah, I meant to say it works with n-bit rollovers (if count + 1 >
2**n-1 then...) for up counters... Mike knew what I meant!

Andy
 

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