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Hardware Description programming Languages

A hardware description language enables a precise, formal description of an electronic circuit that allows for the automated analysis, simulation, and simulated testing of an electronic circuit. It also allows for the compilation of an HDL program into a lower level specification of physical electronic components, such as the set of masks used to create an integrated circuit. A hardware description language looks much like a programming language such as C; it is a textual description consisting of expressions, statements and control structures. One important difference between most programming languages and HDLs is that HDLs explicitly include the notion of time.

HDLs are standard text-based expressions of the spatial and temporal structure and behaviour of electronic systems. Like concurrent programming languages, HDL syntax and semantics includes explicit notations for expressing concurrency.

  • Design using HDL
    As a result of the efficiency gains realized using HDL, a majority of modern digital circuit design revolves around it. Most designs begin as a set of requirements or a high-level architectural diagram. Control and decision structures are often prototyped in flowchart applications, or entered in a state diagram editor. The process of writing the HDL description is highly dependent on the nature of the circuit and the designer's preference for coding style
  • Simulating and debugging HDL code
    Essential to HDL design is the ability to simulate HDL programs. Simulation allows an HDL description of a design (called a model) to pass design verification, an important milestone that validates the design's intended function (specification) against the code implementation in the HDL description. It also permits architectural exploration. The engineer can experiment with design choices by writing multiple variations of a base design, then comparing their behavior in simulation. Thus, simulation is critical for successful HDL design.
  • Design verification with HDLs
    Historically, design verification was a laborious, repetitive loop of writing and running simulation test cases against the design under test. As chip designs have grown larger and more complex, the task of design verification has grown to the point where it now dominates the schedule of a design team
  • HDL and programming languages
    An HDL is grossly similar to a software programming language, but there are major differences. Many programming languages are inherently procedural (single-threaded), with limited syntactical and semantic support to handle concurrency.

List of Hardware Description programming Languages

Hardware Description programming Languages

HDLs are used to write executable specifications of some piece of hardware. A simulation program, designed to implement the underlying semantics of the language statements, coupled with simulating the progress of time, provides the hardware designer with the ability to model a piece of hardware before it is created physically.

  • ADMS
  • Averest
  • Esterel
  • MyHDL
  • Verilog
  • Handel-C

Handel-C is a high level programming language which targets low-level hardware, most commonly used in the programming of FPGAs. It is a rich subset of C, with non-standard extensions to control hardware instantiation with an emphasis on parallelism.

Verilog, standardized as IEEE 1364, is a hardware description language (HDL) used to model electronic systems.

MyHDL is a Python based hardware description language (HDL).

Esterel is a synchronous programming language for the development of complex reactive systems. The imperative programming style of Esterel allows the simple expression of parallelism and preemption. As a consequence, it is very well suited for control-dominated model designs.

Averest is a synchronous programming language and set of tools to specify, verify, and implement reactive systems. It includes a compiler for synchronous programs, a symbolic model checker, and a tool for hardware/software synthesis.

ADMS is a public domain software to translate Verilog-A models into C-models which can be directly read by a number of SPICE simulators, including Spectre Circuit Simulator, Ngspice and HSpice.

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