Pipelined Synchronous Pulse Counter :: Overview

Project maintainers


Name: pcounter
Created: Sep 11, 2012
Updated: Oct 1, 2012
SVN Updated: Sep 11, 2012
SVN: Browse
Latest version: download
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Other project properties

Category: Other
Language: VHDL
Development status: Beta
Additional info: FPGA proven
WishBone Compliant: No
License: LGPL


Fast binary counter, designed to minimize logic path length in between flip-flops
to one gate (MUX/AND) only, at the expense of not so straightforward binary counting.
Aimed to slow architectures without fast carry chain.


The reason for this design has emerged while using Actel (MicroSemi)
ProASIC/IGLOO architecture, lacking any hardwired support for fast carry.

During our work on Actel FPGAs (basically, 3-LUT & DFF only), we were
aware of following types of faster counters:
- LFSR counter
- Johnson counter
- "RLA counter" (as tailored using Actel's SmartGen core generator)

Johnson due to its O(2^n) (n as number of bits) can not be used for
longer counts; LFSR's are hard to invert (table lookup seems to be
only known method), therefore also impractical for wider counters. RLA
counter is still too slow and complex for wider counters and moderate
speeds (e.g. > 24bits @ >100MHz).

As a consequence, the proposed counter uses synchronous divide-by-two
blocks, each using 1-bit pipeline and carry by single-clock
pulse. Design is simple and fast, preliminary results from Synplify
and Actel Designer shows 32bits @200MHz feasible.

However, output bit lines are non-proportionaly delayed by discrete
number of clock periods. Therefore, to obtain linear bit word, an
inversion formula needs to be applied. Fortunately, the inversion is
simple (unlike LFSR's), in C (pcount.c):

for (k = 1; k < n; k++)
if ((y & ((1<<k)-1)) y = y ^ (1<<k);

-- it may be implemented in VHDL core, or within CPU as shown, depending on
application requirements.



pdivtwo.vhdl ... basic building block -- 1-stage pipelined flip-flop
pdchain.vhdl ... counter top-level entity
pcount_tb.vhdl ... GHDL testbench
pcount.c ... C language encoder/decoder of counter bitword
doc/pcounter_4bit_trace.pdf ... simulated signals of 4-bit counter
doc/pcounter_sch.pdf ... schematic diagram of the counter

make testvcd ... produces .vcd file
make testrun ... runs GHDL simulation piped to C bitword decoder/encoder


Synthesized within larger circuit for Actel ProASIC3E A3PE1500-Std
as 32bit wide counter, typical frequency: 234MHz


If you find this idea useful, apply it whenever you want, however,
share your improvements. E.g.:
- (fast) HDL implementation of bitword encode/decode
- preset/reset/match/enable logic

Testimonials (usage/frequency/bits/architecture) are indeed welcome.

Prior Art

Thanks to answers in comp.arch.fpga, there are some pointers to similar or same prior art.
Check it at

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