Last updated
Original author(s) Laurence Nagel
Initial release1973;46 years ago (1973)
Written in Fortran
Type Electronic circuit simulation
License Public-domain software
Website bwrcs.eecs.berkeley.edu/Classes/IcBook/SPICE/
Initial release1975;44 years ago (1975)
Stable release
2G.6 / 1983
Written in Fortran
Type Electronic circuit simulation
License BSD 3 Clause
Website bwrcs.eecs.berkeley.edu/Classes/IcBook/SPICE/
Original author(s) Thomas Quarles
Initial release1989;30 years ago (1989)
Stable release
3f.5 / July 1993
Written in C
Type Electronic circuit simulation
License BSD license
Website bwrcs.eecs.berkeley.edu/Classes/IcBook/SPICE/

SPICE ("Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis") [1] [2] is a general-purpose, open-source analog electronic circuit simulator. It is a program used in integrated circuit and board-level design to check the integrity of circuit designs and to predict circuit behavior.

Open-source software software licensed to ensure source code usage rights

Open-source software (OSS) is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. According to scientists who have studied it, open-source software is a prominent example of open collaboration. The term is often written without a hyphen as "open source software".

Analogue electronics are electronic systems with a continuously variable signal, in contrast to digital electronics where signals usually take only two levels. The term "analogue" describes the proportional relationship between a signal and a voltage or current that represents the signal. The word analogue is derived from the Greek word ανάλογος (analogos) meaning "proportional".

Electronic circuit simulation circuit behavior replication; uses mathematical models to replicate the behavior of an actual electronic device or circuit

Electronic circuit simulation uses mathematical models to replicate the behavior of an actual electronic device or circuit. Simulation software allows for modeling of circuit operation and is an invaluable analysis tool. Due to its highly accurate modeling capability, many colleges and universities use this type of software for the teaching of electronics technician and electronics engineering programs. Electronics simulation software engages the user by integrating him or her into the learning experience. These kinds of interactions actively engage learners to analyze, synthesize, organize, and evaluate content and result in learners constructing their own knowledge.



Unlike board-level designs composed of discrete parts, it is not practical to breadboard integrated circuits before manufacture. Further, the high costs of photolithographic masks and other manufacturing prerequisites make it essential to design the circuit to be as close to perfect as possible before the integrated circuit is first built. Simulating the circuit with SPICE is the industry-standard way to verify circuit operation at the transistor level before committing to manufacturing an integrated circuit.


A breadboard is a construction base for prototyping of electronics. Originally it was literally a bread board, a polished piece of wood used for slicing bread. In the 1970s the solderless breadboard became available and nowadays the term "breadboard" is commonly used to refer to these.

Photomask opaque plate or film with holes or transparencies that allow light to shine through in a defined pattern

A photomask is an opaque plate with holes or transparencies that allow light to shine through in a defined pattern. They are commonly used in photolithography.

Board-level circuit designs can often be breadboarded for testing. Even with a breadboard, some circuit properties may not be accurate compared to the final printed wiring board, such as parasitic resistances and capacitances. These parasitic components can often be estimated more accurately using SPICE simulation. Also, designers may want more information about the circuit than is available from a single mock-up. For instance, circuit performance is affected by component manufacturing tolerances. In these cases it is common to use SPICE to perform Monte Carlo simulations of the effect of component variations on performance, a task which is impractical using calculations by hand for a circuit of any appreciable complexity.

Parasitic element (electrical networks)

In electrical networks, a parasitic element is a circuit element that is possessed by an electrical component but which it is not desirable for it to have for its intended purpose. For instance, a resistor is designed to possess resistance, but will also possess unwanted parasitic capacitance.

Monte Carlo methods are a broad class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to obtain numerical results. Their essential idea is using randomness to solve problems that might be deterministic in principle. They are often used in physical and mathematical problems and are most useful when it is difficult or impossible to use other approaches. Monte Carlo methods are mainly used in three problem classes: optimization, numerical integration, and generating draws from a probability distribution.

Circuit simulation programs, of which SPICE and derivatives are the most prominent, take a text netlist describing the circuit elements (transistors, resistors, capacitors, etc.) and their connections, and translate [3] this description into equations to be solved. The general equations produced are nonlinear differential algebraic equations which are solved using implicit integration methods, Newton's method and sparse matrix techniques.

In electronic design, a netlist is a description of the connectivity of an electronic circuit. In its simplest form, a netlist consists of a list of the electronic components in a circuit and a list of the nodes they are connected to. A network (net) is a collection of two or more interconnected components.

In mathematics and science, a nonlinear system is a system in which the change of the output is not proportional to the change of the input. Nonlinear problems are of interest to engineers, biologists, physicists, mathematicians, and many other scientists because most systems are inherently nonlinear in nature. Nonlinear dynamical systems, describing changes in variables over time, may appear chaotic, unpredictable, or counterintuitive, contrasting with much simpler linear systems.

Explicit and implicit methods are approaches used in numerical analysis for obtaining numerical approximations to the solutions of time-dependent ordinary and partial differential equations, as is required in computer simulations of physical processes.


SPICE was developed at the Electronics Research Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley by Laurence Nagel with direction from his research advisor, Prof. Donald Pederson. SPICE1 was largely a derivative of the CANCER program, [4] which Nagel had worked on under Prof. Ronald Rohrer. CANCER was an acronym for "Computer Analysis of Nonlinear Circuits, Excluding Radiation," a hint to Berkeley's liberalism in the 1960s: [5] at these times many circuit simulators were developed under the United States Department of Defense contracts that required the capability to evaluate the radiation hardness of a circuit. When Nagel's original advisor, Prof. Rohrer, left Berkeley, Prof. Pederson became his advisor. Pederson insisted that CANCER, a proprietary program, be rewritten enough that restrictions could be removed and the program could be put in the public domain. [6]

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in the United States. Located in the city of Berkeley, it was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

Donald Pederson American professor of electrical engineering

Donald Oscar Pederson was an American professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the designers of SPICE, a simulator for integrated circuits that has been universally used as a teaching tool and in the everyday work of circuits engineers. The IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits is named in his honor.

United States Department of Defense United States federal executive department

The Department of Defense is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government concerned directly with national security and the United States Armed Forces. The department is the largest employer in the world, with nearly 1.3 million active duty servicemen and women as of 2016. Adding to its employees are over 826,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists from the four services, and over 732,000 civilians bringing the total to over 2.8 million employees. Headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., the DoD's stated mission is to provide "the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security".

SPICE1 was first presented at a conference in 1973. [7] SPICE1 was coded in FORTRAN and used nodal analysis to construct the circuit equations. Nodal analysis has limitations in representing inductors, floating voltage sources and the various forms of controlled sources. SPICE1 had relatively few circuit elements available and used a fixed-timestep transient analysis. The real popularity of SPICE started with SPICE2 [8] in 1975. SPICE2, also coded in FORTRAN, was a much-improved program with more circuit elements, variable timestep transient analysis using either the trapezoidal (second order Adams-Moulton method) or the Gear integration method (also known as BDF), equation formulation via modified nodal analysis [9] (avoiding the limitations of nodal analysis), and an innovative FORTRAN-based memory allocation system developed by another graduate student, Ellis Cohen. The last FORTRAN version of SPICE was 2G.6 in 1983. SPICE3 [10] was developed by Thomas Quarles (with A. Richard Newton as advisor) in 1989. It is written in C, uses the same netlist syntax, and added X Window System plotting.

Nodal analysis method of determining the voltage (potential difference) between "nodes" (points where elements or branches connect) in an electrical circuit in terms of the branch currents

In electric circuits analysis, nodal analysis, node-voltage analysis, or the branch current method is a method of determining the voltage between "nodes" in an electrical circuit in terms of the branch currents.

The backward differentiation formula (BDF) is a family of implicit methods for the numerical integration of ordinary differential equations. They are linear multistep methods that, for a given function and time, approximate the derivative of that function using information from already computed times, thereby increasing the accuracy of the approximation. These methods are especially used for the solution of stiff differential equations. The method were first introduced by Charles F. Curtiss and Joseph O. Hirschfelder in 1952.

In electrical engineering, modified nodal analysis or MNA is an extension of nodal analysis which not only determines the circuit's node voltages, but also some branch currents. Modified nodal analysis was developed as a formalism to mitigate the difficulty of representing voltage-defined components in nodal analysis. It is one such formalism. Others, such as sparse tableau formulation, are equally general and related via matrix transformations.

As an early public domain software program with source code available, [11] SPICE was widely distributed and used. Its ubiquity became such that "to SPICE a circuit" remains synonymous with circuit simulation. [12] SPICE source code was from the beginning distributed by UC Berkeley for a nominal charge (to cover the cost of magnetic tape). The license originally included distribution restrictions for countries not considered friendly to the US, but the source code is currently covered by the BSD license.

The birth of SPICE was named an IEEE Milestone in 2011; the entry mentions that SPICE "evolved to become the worldwide standard integrated circuit simulator." [13] Nagel was awarded the 2019 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits for the development of SPICE. [14]

Commercial versions and spinoffs

SPICE inspired and served as a basis for many other circuit simulation programs, in academia, in industry, and in commercial products. The first commercial version of SPICE was ISPICE, [15] an interactive version on a timeshare service, National CSS. The most prominent commercial versions of SPICE include HSPICE (originally commercialized by Ashawna and Kim Hailey of Meta Software, but now owned by Synopsys) and PSPICE (now owned by Cadence Design Systems). The academic spinoffs of SPICE include XSPICE, developed at Georgia Tech, which added mixed analog/digital "code models" for behavioral simulation, and Cider (previously CODECS, from UC Berkeley/Oregon State Univ.) which added semiconductor device simulation. SPICE, XSPICE and CIDER have been integrated into open source ngspice [16] . The integrated circuit industry adopted SPICE quickly, and until commercial versions became well developed many IC design houses had proprietary versions of SPICE. [17]

Today a few IC manufacturers, typically the larger companies, have groups continuing to develop SPICE-based circuit simulation programs. Among these are ADICE at Analog Devices, LTspice at Linear Technology (available to the public as freeware), Mica at Freescale Semiconductor and TINA at Texas Instruments. Similarly to Linear Technology, Texas Instruments makes available a freeware Windows version of the TINA software [18] (called TINA-TI [19] ), which also includes their version of SPICE and comes preloaded with models for the company's integrated circuits. [20] [21] Analog Devices offers a similar free tool called ADIsimPE (based on the SIMetrix/SIMPLIS [22] implementation of SPICE). [23] Other companies maintain internal circuit simulators which are not directly based upon SPICE, among them PowerSpice at IBM, TITAN at Infineon Technologies, Lynx at Intel Corporation, and Pstar at NXP Semiconductor.[ citation needed ]

Program features and structure

SPICE became popular because it contained the analyses and models needed to design integrated circuits of the time, and was robust enough and fast enough to be practical to use. [24] Precursors to SPICE often had a single purpose: The BIAS [25] program, for example, did simulation of bipolar transistor circuit operating points; the SLIC [26] program did only small-signal analyses. SPICE combined operating point solutions, transient analysis, and various small-signal analyses with the circuit elements and device models needed to successfully simulate many circuits.


SPICE2 included these analyses:

Since SPICE is generally used to model nonlinear circuits, the small signal analyses are necessarily preceded by a quiescent point calculation at which the circuit is linearized. SPICE2 also contained code for other small-signal analyses: sensitivity analysis, pole-zero analysis, and small-signal distortion analysis. Analysis at various temperatures was done by automatically updating semiconductor model parameters for temperature, allowing the circuit to be simulated at temperature extremes.

Other circuit simulators have since added many analyses beyond those in SPICE2 to address changing industry requirements. Parametric sweeps were added to analyze circuit performance with changing manufacturing tolerances or operating conditions. Loop gain and stability calculations were added for analog circuits. Harmonic balance or time-domain steady state analyses were added for RF and switched-capacitor circuit design. However, a public-domain circuit simulator containing the modern analyses and features needed to become a successor in popularity to SPICE has not yet emerged. [24]

It is very important to use appropriate analyses with carefully chosen parameters. For example, application of linear analysis to nonlinear circuits should be justified separately. Also, application of transient analysis with default simulation parameters can lead to qualitatively wrong conclusions on circuit dynamics. [27]

Device models

SPICE2 included many semiconductor device compact models: three levels of MOSFET model, a combined Ebers–Moll and Gummel–Poon bipolar model, a JFET model, and a model for a junction diode. In addition, it had many other elements: resistors, capacitors, inductors (including coupling), independent voltage and current sources, ideal transmission lines, active components and voltage and current controlled sources.

SPICE3 added more sophisticated MOSFET models, which were required due to advances in semiconductor technology. In particular, the BSIM family of models were added, which were also developed at UC Berkeley.

Commercial and industrial SPICE simulators have added many other device models as technology advanced and earlier models became inadequate. To attempt standardization of these models so that a set of model parameters may be used in different simulators, an industry working group was formed, the Compact Model Council, [28] to choose, maintain and promote the use of standard models. The standard models today include BSIM3, BSIM4, BSIMSOI, PSP, HICUM, and MEXTRAM.

Input and output: Netlists, schematic capture and plotting

SPICE2 took a text netlist as input and produced line-printer listings as output, which fit with the computing environment in 1975. These listings were either columns of numbers corresponding to calculated outputs (typically voltages or currents), or line-printer character "plots". SPICE3 retained the netlist for circuit description, but allowed analyses to be controlled from a command-line interface similar to the C shell. SPICE3 also added basic X plotting, as UNIX and engineering workstations became common.

Vendors and various free software projects have added schematic capture front-ends to SPICE, allowing a schematic diagram of the circuit to be drawn and the netlist to be automatically generated. Also, graphical user interfaces were added for selecting the simulations to be done and manipulating the voltage and current output vectors. In addition, very capable graphing utilities have been added to see waveforms and graphs of parametric dependencies. Several free versions of these extended programs are available, some as introductory limited packages, and some without restrictions.

Transient analysis

Since transient analysis is dependent on time, it uses different analysis algorithms, control options with different convergence-related issues and different initialization parameters than DC analysis. However, since a transient analysis first performs a DC operating point analysis (unless the UIC option is specified in the .TRAN statement), most of the DC analysis algorithms, control options, and initialization and convergence issues apply to transient analysis.

Initial conditions for transient analysis

Some circuits, such as oscillators or circuits with feedback, do not have stable operating point solutions. For these circuits, either the feedback loop must be broken so that a DC operating point can be calculated or the initial conditions must be provided in the simulation input. The DC operating point analysis is bypassed if the UIC parameter is included in the .TRAN statement. If UIC is included in the .TRAN statement, a transient analysis is started using node voltages specified in an .IC statement. If a node is set to 5 V in a .IC statement, the value at that node for the first time point (time 0) is 5 V.

You can use the .OP statement to store an estimate of the DC operating point during a transient analysis.

.TRAN 1ns 100ns UIC .OP 20ns

The .TRAN statement UIC parameter in the above example bypasses the initial DC operating point analysis. The .OP statement calculates transient operating point at t = 20 ns during the transient analysis.

Although a transient analysis might provide a convergent DC solution, the transient analysis itself can still fail to converge. In a transient analysis, the error message "internal timestep too small" indicates that the circuit failed to converge. The convergence failure might be due to stated initial conditions that are not close enough to the actual DC operating point values.

See also

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  1. Nagel, L. W, and Pederson, D. O., SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis), Memorandum No. ERL-M382, University of California, Berkeley, Apr. 1973
  2. Nagel, Laurence W., SPICE2: A Computer Program to Simulate Semiconductor Circuits, Memorandum No. ERL-M520, University of California, Berkeley, May 1975
  3. Warwick, Colin (May 2009). "Everything you always wanted to know about SPICE* (*But were afraid to ask)" (PDF). EMC Journal. Nutwood UK Limited (82): 27–29. ISSN   1748-9253.
  4. Nagel, L. W. & Rohrer, R. A. (August 1971). "Computer Analysis of Nonlinear Circuits, Excluding Radiation". IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits. SC-6: 166–182. Bibcode:1971IJSSC...6..166N. doi:10.1109/JSSC.1971.1050166.[ dead link ]
  5. Life of SPICE Archived February 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. Perry, T. (June 1998). "Donald O. Pederson". IEEE Spectrum. 35: 22–27. doi:10.1109/6.681968.
  7. 2nd spice1 ref
  8. 2nd spice2 ref
  9. Ho, Ruehli, and Brennan (April 1974). "The Modified Nodal Approach to Network Analysis". Proc. 1974 Int. Symposium on Circuits and Systems, San Francisco. pp. 505–509. Archived from the original on 2011-05-15.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. Quarles, Thomas L., Analysis of Performance and Convergence Issues for Circuit Simulation, Memorandum No. UCB/ERL M89/42, University of California, Berkeley, Apr. 1989.
  11. history-of-spice Archived October 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine on allaboutcircuits.com "The origin of SPICE traces back to another circuit simulation program called CANCER. Developed by professor Ronald Rohrer of U.C. Berkeley along with some of his students in the late 1960s, CANCER continued to be improved through the early 1970s. When Rohrer left Berkeley, CANCER was re-written and re-named to SPICE, released as version 1 to the public domain in May of 1972. Version 2 of SPICE was released in 1975 (version 2g6—the version used in this book—is a minor revision of this 1975 release). Instrumental in the decision to release SPICE as a public-domain computer program was professor Donald Pederson of Berkeley, who believed that all significant technical progress happens when information is freely shared. I for one thank him for his vision."
  12. Pescovitz, David (2002-05-02). "1972: The release of SPICE, still the industry standard tool for integrated circuit design". Lab Notes: Research from the Berkeley College of Engineering. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
  13. "List of IEEE Milestones". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  14. Donald O. Pederson Solid-State Circuits Award, IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society, June 2018
  15. Vladimirescu, Andrei, SPICE -- The Third Decade, Proc. 1990 IEEE Bipolar Circuits and Technology Meeting, Minneapolis, Sept. 1990, pp. 96–101
  16. ngspice, current status and future developments, H. Vogt, FOSDEM, Brussels 2019, https://fosdem.org/2019/schedule/event/ngspice/
  17. K. S. Kundert, The Designer’s Guide to SPICE and Spectre, Kluwer. Academic Publishers, Boston , 1995
  18. TINA - Circuit Simulator for Analog, Digital, MCU & Mixed Circuit Simulation Archived November 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  19. SPICE-Based Analog Simulation Program - TINA-TI - TI Software Folder Archived October 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  20. Art Kay (2012). Operational Amplifier Noise: Techniques and Tips for Analyzing and Reducing Noise. Elsevier. p. 41. ISBN   978-0-08-094243-8.
  21. Ron Mancini (2012). Op Amps for Everyone. Newnes. p. 162. ISBN   978-0-12-394406-1.
  22. SIMertrix/SIMPLIS Archived May 17, 2016, at the Portuguese Web Archive
  23. Archived July 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  24. 1 2 Nagel, L., Is it Time for SPICE4? Archived September 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine , 2004 Numerical Aspects of Device and Circuit Modeling Workshop, June 23–25, 2004, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Retrieved on 2007-11-10
  25. McCalla and Howard (February 1971). "BIAS-3 – A program for nonlinear D.C. analysis of bipolar transistor circuits". IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits. 6 (1): 14–19. Bibcode:1971IJSSC...6...14M. doi:10.1109/JSSC.1971.1050153.[ dead link ]
  26. Idleman, Jenkins, McCalla and Pederson (August 1971). "SLIC—a simulator for linear integrated circuits". IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits. 6 (4): 188–203. Bibcode:1971IJSSC...6..188I. doi:10.1109/JSSC.1971.1050168.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)[ dead link ]
  27. Bianchi, Giovanni (2015). "Limitations of PLL simulation: hidden oscillations in SPICE analysis". arXiv: 1506.02484 . Bibcode:2015arXiv150602484B.
  28. "CMC - Compact Model Council". GEIA. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011.

Histories, original papers