Logic level

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In digital circuits, a logic level is one of a finite number of states that a digital signal can inhabit. Logic levels are usually represented by the voltage difference between the signal and ground, although other standards exist. The range of voltage levels that represent each state depends on the logic family being used.


2-level logic

In binary logic the two levels are logical high and logical low, which generally correspond to binary numbers 1 and 0 respectively. Signals with one of these two levels can be used in boolean algebra for digital circuit design or analysis.

Active state

The use of either the higher or the lower voltage level to represent either logic state is arbitrary. The two options are active high and active low. Active-high and active-low states can be mixed at will: for example, a read only memory integrated circuit may have a chip-select signal that is active-low, but the data and address bits are conventionally active-high. Occasionally a logic design is simplified by inverting the choice of active level (see De Morgan's laws).

Binary signal representations
Logic levelActive-high signalActive-low signal
Logical high10
Logical low01

The name of an active-low signal is historically written with a bar above it to distinguish it from an active-high signal. For example, the name Q, read "Q bar" or "Q not", represents an active-low signal. The conventions commonly used are:

Many control signals in electronics are active-low signals [2] (usually reset lines, chip-select lines and so on). Logic families such as TTL can sink more current than they can source, so fanout and noise immunity increase. It also allows for wired-OR logic if the logic gates are open-collector/open-drain with a pull-up resistor. Examples of this are the I²C bus and the Controller Area Network (CAN),and the PCI Local Bus. RS232 signaling, as used on some serial ports, uses active-low signals.

Some signals have a meaning in both states and notation may indicate such. For example, it is common to have a read/write line designated R/W, indicating that the signal is high in case of a read and low in case of a write.

Logic voltage levels

The two logical states are usually represented by two different voltages, but two different currents are used in some logic signaling, like digital current loop interface and current-mode logic. High and low thresholds are specified for each logic family. When below the low threshold, the signal is "low". When above the high threshold, the signal is "high". Intermediate levels are undefined, resulting in highly implementation-specific circuit behavior.

It is usual to allow some tolerance in the voltage levels used; for example, 0 to 2 volts might represent logic 0, and 3 to 5 volts logic 1. A voltage of 2 to 3 volts would be invalid and occur only in a fault condition or during a logic level transition. However, few logic circuits can detect such a condition, and most devices will interpret the signal simply as high or low in an undefined or device-specific manner. Some logic devices incorporate Schmitt trigger inputs, whose behavior is much better defined in the threshold region and have increased resilience to small variations in the input voltage. The problem of the circuit designer is to avoid circumstances that produce intermediate levels, so that the circuit behaves predictably.

Examples of binary logic levels
TechnologyL voltageH voltageNotes
CMOS [3] 0 V to 1/3 VDD2/3 VDD to VDDVDD = supply voltage
TTL [3] 0 V to 0.8 V2 V to VCCVCC = 5 V ±10%
ECL [ citation needed ]VEE to −1.4 V−1.2 V to 0 VVEE is about −5.2 V

Nearly all digital circuits use a consistent logic level for all internal signals. That level, however, varies from one system to another. Interconnecting any two logic families often required special techniques such as additional pull-up resistors or purpose-built interface circuits known as level shifters. A level shifter connects one digital circuit that uses one logic level to another digital circuit that uses another logic level. Often two level shifters are used, one at each system: A line driver converts from internal logic levels to standard interface line levels; a line receiver converts from interface levels to internal voltage levels.

For example, TTL levels are different from those of CMOS. Generally, a TTL output does not rise high enough to be reliably recognized as a logic 1 by a CMOS input, especially if it is only connected to a high-input-impedance CMOS input that does not source significant current. This problem was solved by the invention of the 74HCT family of devices that uses CMOS technology but TTL input logic levels. These devices only work with a 5 V power supply.

3-level logic

In three-state logic, an output device can be in one of three possible states: 0, 1, or Z, with the last meaning high impedance. This is not a logic level, but means that the output is not controlling the state of the connected circuit.

4-level logic

4-level logic adds a fourth state, X ("don't care"), meaning the value of the signal is unimportant and undefined. It means that an input is undefined, or an output signal may be chosen for implementation convenience (see Karnaugh map § Don't cares).

9-level logic

IEEE 1164 defines 9 logic states for use in electronic design automation. The standard includes strong and weakly driven signals, high impedance and unknown and uninitialized states.

multi-level logic

In solid-state storage devices, each cell of memory represents the value of multiple bits through multiple voltages. Storing n bits in one cell requires the device to reliably distinguish 2n distinct voltage levels.

See also

Related Research Articles

In electronics, a logic gate is an idealized or physical device implementing a Boolean function; that is, it performs a logical operation on one or more binary inputs and produces a single binary output. Depending on the context, the term may refer to an ideal logic gate, one that has for instance zero rise time and unlimited fan-out, or it may refer to a non-ideal physical device.

Comparator device that compares two voltages or currents

In electronics, a comparator is a device that compares two voltages or currents and outputs a digital signal indicating which is larger. It has two analog input terminals and and one binary digital output . The output is ideally

Transistor–transistor logic (TTL) is a logic family built from bipolar junction transistors. Its name signifies that transistors perform both the logic function and the amplifying function ; it is the same naming convention used in resistor–transistor logic (RTL) and diode–transistor logic (DTL).

CMOS Technology for constructing integrated circuits

Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS), also known as complementary-symmetry metal–oxide–semiconductor (COS-MOS), is a type of MOSFET fabrication process that uses complementary and symmetrical pairs of p-type and n-type MOSFETs for logic functions. CMOS technology is used for constructing integrated circuit (IC) chips, including microprocessors, microcontrollers, memory chips, and other digital logic circuits. CMOS technology is also used for analog circuits such as image sensors, data converters, RF circuits, and highly integrated transceivers for many types of communication.

Inverter (logic gate) logic gate implementing negation

In digital logic, an inverter or NOT gate is a logic gate which implements logical negation. The truth table is shown on the right.

In digital electronics, the fan-out is the number of gate inputs that the output of a logic gate drives.

7400-series integrated circuits series of transistor–transistor logic integrated circuits

The 7400 series of integrated circuits (ICs) are the most popular logic families. In 1964, Texas Instruments introduced the first members of their ceramic package SN5400 series transistor–transistor logic (TTL) logic chips, later a low-cost plastic package SN7400 series was introduced in 1966 which quickly gained over 50% of the logic chip market, and eventually becoming de facto standardized electronic components. Over the decades, many generations of pin-compatible descendant families evolved to include support for low power CMOS technology, lower supply voltages, and surface mount packages.

Schmitt trigger

In electronics, a Schmitt trigger is a comparator circuit with hysteresis implemented by applying positive feedback to the noninverting input of a comparator or differential amplifier. It is an active circuit which converts an analog input signal to a digital output signal. The circuit is named a "trigger" because the output retains its value until the input changes sufficiently to trigger a change. In the non-inverting configuration, when the input is higher than a chosen threshold, the output is high. When the input is below a different (lower) chosen threshold the output is low, and when the input is between the two levels the output retains its value. This dual threshold action is called hysteresis and implies that the Schmitt trigger possesses memory and can act as a bistable multivibrator. There is a close relation between the two kinds of circuits: a Schmitt trigger can be converted into a latch and a latch can be converted into a Schmitt trigger.

Resistor–transistor logic (RTL) is a class of digital circuits built using resistors as the input network and bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) as switching devices. RTL is the earliest class of transistorized digital logic circuit used; other classes include diode–transistor logic (DTL) and transistor–transistor logic (TTL). RTL circuits were first constructed with discrete components, but in 1961 it became the first digital logic family to be produced as a monolithic integrated circuit. RTL integrated circuits were used in the Apollo Guidance Computer, whose design was begun in 1961 and which first flew in 1966.

In computer engineering, a logic family may refer to one of two related concepts. A logic family of monolithic digital integrated circuit devices is a group of electronic logic gates constructed using one of several different designs, usually with compatible logic levels and power supply characteristics within a family. Many logic families were produced as individual components, each containing one or a few related basic logical functions, which could be used as "building-blocks" to create systems or as so-called "glue" to interconnect more complex integrated circuits. A "logic family" may also refer to a set of techniques used to implement logic within VLSI integrated circuits such as central processors, memories, or other complex functions. Some such logic families use static techniques to minimize design complexity. Other such logic families, such as domino logic, use clocked dynamic techniques to minimize size, power consumption and delay.

Pull-up resistor technique in digital electronics

In electronic logic circuits, a pull-up resistor or pull-down resistor is a resistor used to ensure a known state for a signal. It is typically used in combination with components such as switches and transistors, which physically interrupt the connection of subsequent components to ground or to VCC. When the switch is closed, it creates a direct connection to ground or VCC, but when the switch is open, the rest of the circuit would be left floating. For a switch that connects to ground, a pull-up resistor ensures a well-defined voltage across the remainder of the circuit when the switch is open. Conversely, for a switch that connects to VCC, a pull-down resistor ensures a well-defined ground voltage when the switch is open.

The OR gate is a digital logic gate that implements logical disjunction – it behaves according to the truth table to the right. A HIGH output (1) results if one or both the inputs to the gate are HIGH (1). If neither input is high, a LOW output (0) results. In another sense, the function of OR effectively finds the maximum between two binary digits, just as the complementary AND function finds the minimum.

Diode logic constructs Boolean logic gates from diodes acting

Diode logic (DL), or diode-resistor logic (DRL), is the construction of Boolean logic gates from diodes. Diode logic was used extensively in the construction of early computers, where semiconductor diodes could replace bulky and costly active vacuum tube elements. The most common use for diode logic is in diode–transistor logic (DTL) integrated circuits that, in addition to diodes, include inverter logic for power gain and signal restoration.

Open collector

An open collector is a common type of output found on many integrated circuits (IC), which behaves like a switch that is either connected to ground or disconnected. Instead of outputting a signal of a specific voltage or current, the output signal is applied to the base of an internal NPN transistor whose collector is externalized (open) on a pin of the IC. The emitter of the transistor is connected internally to the ground pin. If the output device is a MOSFET the output is called open drain and it functions in a similar way. For example, the I²C bus is based on this concept.

In integrated circuit design, dynamic logic is a design methodology in combinatory logic circuits, particularly those implemented in MOS technology. It is distinguished from the so-called static logic by exploiting temporary storage of information in stray and gate capacitances. It was popular in the 1970s and has seen a recent resurgence in the design of high speed digital electronics, particularly computer CPUs. Dynamic logic circuits are usually faster than static counterparts, and require less surface area, but are more difficult to design. Dynamic logic has a higher toggle rate than static logic but the capacitative loads being toggled are smaller so the overall power consumption of dynamic logic may be higher or lower depending on various tradeoffs. When referring to a particular logic family, the dynamic adjective usually suffices to distinguish the design methodology, e.g. dynamic CMOS or dynamic SOI design.

In electronics, high impedance means that a point in a circuit allows a relatively small amount of current through, per unit of applied voltage at that point. High impedance circuits are low current and potentially high voltage, whereas low impedance circuits are the opposite. Numerical definitions of "high impedance" vary by application.

Logic probe

A logic probe is a hand-held test probe used for analyzing and troubleshooting the logical states of a digital circuit.

In electrical engineering, noise margin is the maximum voltage amplitude of extraneous signal that can be algebraically added to the noise-free worst-case input level without causing the output voltage to deviate from the allowable logic voltage level. It is commonly used in at least two contexts as follows:

PMOS logic p-type MOSFETs to implement logic gates

P-type metal-oxide-semiconductor logic uses p-channel (+) metal-oxide-semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFETs) to implement logic gates and other digital circuits. PMOS transistors operate by creating an inversion layer in an n-type transistor body. This inversion layer, called the p-channel, can conduct holes between p-type "source" and "drain" terminals.

A level shifter in digital electronics, also called logic-level shifter or voltage level translation, is a circuit used to translate signals from one logic level or voltage domain to another, allowing compatibility between ICs with different voltage requirements, such as TTL and CMOS. Modern systems use level shifters to bridge domains between processors, logic, sensors, and other circuits. In recent years, the three most common logic levels have been 1.8V, 3.3V, and 5V, though levels above and below these voltages are also used.


  1. "Coding Style Guidelines" (PDF). Xilinx . Retrieved 2017-08-17.
  2. Balch, Mark (2003). Complete Digital Design: A Comprehensive Guide To Digital Electronics And Computer System Architecture. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 430. ISBN   978-0-07-140927-8.
  3. 1 2 "Logic signal voltage levels". All About Circuits. Retrieved 2015-03-29.