Sequential logic

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In digital circuit theory, sequential logic is a type of logic circuit whose output depends not only on the present value of its input signals but on the sequence of past inputs, the input history as well. [1] [2] [3] [4] This is in contrast to combinational logic , whose output is a function of only the present input. That is, sequential logic has state (memory) while combinational logic does not.

Sequence ordered list of elements; function with natural numbers as domain

In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of objects in which repetitions are allowed. Like a set, it contains members. The number of elements is called the length of the sequence. Unlike a set, the same elements can appear multiple times at different positions in a sequence, and order matters. Formally, a sequence can be defined as a function whose domain is either the set of the natural numbers or the set of the first n natural numbers. The position of an element in a sequence is its rank or index; it is the natural number from which the element is the image. It depends on the context or a specific convention, if the first element has index 0 or 1. When a symbol has been chosen for denoting a sequence, the nth element of the sequence is denoted by this symbol with n as subscript; for example, the nth element of the Fibonacci sequence is generally denoted Fn.

Combinational logic type of digital logic which is implemented by boolean circuits

In digital circuit theory, combinational logic is a type of digital logic which is implemented by Boolean circuits, where the output is a pure function of the present input only. This is in contrast to sequential logic, in which the output depends not only on the present input but also on the history of the input. In other words, sequential logic has memory while combinational logic does not.

In information technology and computer science, a program is described as stateful if it is designed to remember preceding events or user interactions; the remembered information is called the state of the system.


Sequential logic is used to construct finite state machines, a basic building block in all digital circuitry. Virtually all circuits in practical digital devices are a mixture of combinational and sequential logic.

A familiar example of a device with sequential logic is a television set with "channel up" and "channel down" buttons. [1] Pressing the "up" button gives the television an input telling it to switch to the next channel above the one it is currently receiving. If the television is on channel 5, pressing "up" switches it to receive channel 6. However, if the television is on channel 8, pressing "up" switches it to channel "9". In order for the channel selection to operate correctly, the television must be aware of which channel it is currently receiving, which was determined by past channel selections. [1] The television stores the current channel as part of its state . When a "channel up" or "channel down" input is given to it, the sequential logic of the channel selection circuitry calculates the new channel from the input and the current channel.

Television set device that combines a tuner, display, and speakers for the purpose of viewing television

A television set or television receiver, more commonly called a television, TV, TV set, or telly, is a device that combines a tuner, display, and loudspeakers for the purpose of viewing television. Introduced in the late 1920s in mechanical form, television sets became a popular consumer product after World War II in electronic form, using cathode ray tubes. The addition of color to broadcast television after 1953 further increased the popularity of television sets in the 1960s, and an outdoor antenna became a common feature of suburban homes. The ubiquitous television set became the display device for the first recorded media in the 1970s, such as Betamax, VHS and later DVD. It was also the display device for the first generation of home computers and video game consoles in the 1980s. In the 2010s flat panel television incorporating liquid-crystal displays, especially LED-backlit LCDs, largely replaced cathode ray tubes and other displays. Modern flat panel TVs are typically capable of high-definition display and can also play content from a USB device.

Digital sequential logic circuits are divided into synchronous and asynchronous types. In synchronous sequential circuits, the state of the device changes only at discrete times in response to a clock signal. In asynchronous circuits the state of the device can change at any time in response to changing inputs.

In electronics and especially synchronous digital circuits, a clock signal is a particular type of signal that oscillates between a high and a low state and is used like a metronome to coordinate actions of digital circuits.

Synchronous sequential logic

Nearly all sequential logic today is clocked or synchronous logic. In a synchronous circuit, an electronic oscillator called a clock (or clock generator) generates a sequence of repetitive pulses called the clock signal which is distributed to all the memory elements in the circuit. The basic memory element in sequential logic is the flip-flop. The output of each flip-flop only changes when triggered by the clock pulse, so changes to the logic signals throughout the circuit all begin at the same time, at regular intervals, synchronized by the clock.

Electronic oscillator electronic circuit that produces a repetitive, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave

An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.

Clock generator

A clock generator is an electronic oscillator (circuit) that produces a timing signal for use in synchronizing a circuit's operation. The signal can range from a simple symmetrical square wave to more complex arrangements. The basic parts that all clock generators share are a resonant circuit and an amplifier.

Flip-flop (electronics) circuit that has two stable states and can be used to store state information

In electronics, a flip-flop or latch is a circuit that has two stable states and can be used to store state information. A flip-flop is a bistable multivibrator. The circuit can be made to change state by signals applied to one or more control inputs and will have one or two outputs. It is the basic storage element in sequential logic. Flip-flops and latches are fundamental building blocks of digital electronics systems used in computers, communications, and many other types of systems.

The output of all the storage elements (flip-flops) in the circuit at any given time, the binary data they contain, is called the state of the circuit. The state of a synchronous circuit only changes on clock pulses. At each cycle, the next state is determined by the current state and the value of the input signals when the clock pulse occurs.

The main advantage of synchronous logic is its simplicity. The logic gates which perform the operations on the data require a finite amount of time to respond to changes to their inputs. This is called propagation delay . The interval between clock pulses must be long enough so that all the logic gates have time to respond to the changes and their outputs "settle" to stable logic values, before the next clock pulse occurs. As long as this condition is met (ignoring certain other details) the circuit is guaranteed to be stable and reliable. This determines the maximum operating speed of a synchronous circuit.

Synchronous logic has two main disadvantages:

Asynchronous sequential logic

Asynchronous sequential logic is not synchronized by a clock signal; the outputs of the circuit change directly in response to changes in inputs. The advantage of asynchronous logic is that it can be faster than synchronous logic, because the circuit doesn't have to wait for a clock signal to process inputs. The speed of the device is potentially limited only by the propagation delays of the logic gates used.

However, asynchronous logic is more difficult to design and is subject to problems not encountered in synchronous designs. The main problem is that digital memory elements are sensitive to the order that their input signals arrive; if two signals arrive at a flip-flop or latch at almost the same time, which state the circuit goes into can depend on which signal gets to the gate first. Therefore, the circuit can go into the wrong state, depending on small differences in the propagation delays of the logic gates. This is called a race condition. This problem is not as severe in synchronous circuits because the outputs of the memory elements only change at each clock pulse. The interval between clock signals is designed to be long enough to allow the outputs of the memory elements to "settle" so they are not changing when the next clock comes. Therefore, the only timing problems are due to "asynchronous inputs"; inputs to the circuit from other systems which are not synchronized to the clock signal.

Asynchronous sequential circuits are typically used only in a few critical parts of otherwise synchronous systems where speed is at a premium, such as parts of microprocessors and digital signal processing circuits.

The design of asynchronous logic uses different mathematical models and techniques from synchronous logic, and is an active area of research.

See also

Related Research Articles

In digital logic and computing, a counter is a device which stores the number of times a particular event or process has occurred, often in relationship to a clock signal. The most common type is a sequential digital logic circuit with an input line called the clock and multiple output lines. The values on the output lines represent a number in the binary or BCD number system. Each pulse applied to the clock input increments or decrements the number in the counter.

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.

Digital electronics Electronic circuits that utilize digital signals

Digital electronics or digital (electronic) circuits are electronics that operate on digital signals. In contrast, analog circuits manipulate analog signals whose performance is more subject to manufacturing tolerance, signal attenuation and noise. Digital techniques are helpful because it is a lot easier to get an electronic device to switch into one of a number of known states than to accurately reproduce a continuous range of values.

Phase detector frequency mixer, analog multiplier or logic circuit that generates a voltage signal which represents the difference in phase between two signal inputs; part of a phase-locked loop

A phase detector or phase comparator is a frequency mixer, analog multiplier or logic circuit that generates a voltage signal which represents the difference in phase between two signal inputs. It is an essential element of the phase-locked loop (PLL).

ATPG is an electronic design automation method/technology used to find an input sequence that, when applied to a digital circuit, enables automatic test equipment to distinguish between the correct circuit behavior and the faulty circuit behavior caused by defects. The generated patterns are used to test semiconductor devices after manufacture, or to assist with determining the cause of failure. The effectiveness of ATPG is measured by the number of modeled defects, or fault models, detectable and by the number of generated patterns. These metrics generally indicate test quality and test application time. ATPG efficiency is another important consideration that is influenced by the fault model under consideration, the type of circuit under test, the level of abstraction used to represent the circuit under test, and the required test quality.

In digital circuit design, register-transfer level (RTL) is a design abstraction which models a synchronous digital circuit in terms of the flow of digital signals (data) between hardware registers, and the logical operations performed on those signals.

A synchronous circuit is a digital circuit in which the changes in the state of memory elements are synchronized by a clock signal. In a sequential digital logic circuit, data is stored in memory devices called flip-flops or latches. The output of a flip-flop is constant until a pulse is applied to its "clock" input, upon which the input of the flip-flop is latched into its output. In a synchronous logic circuit, an electronic oscillator called the clock generates a string of pulses, the "clock signal". This clock signal is applied to every storage element, so in an ideal synchronous circuit, every change in the logical levels of its storage components is simultaneous. Ideally, the input to each storage element has reached its final value before the next clock occurs, so the behaviour of the whole circuit can be predicted exactly. Practically, some delay is required for each logical operation, resulting in a maximum speed at which each synchronous system can run.

An asynchronous circuit, or self-timed circuit, is a sequential digital logic circuit which is not governed by a clock circuit or global clock signal. Instead it often uses signals that indicate completion of instructions and operations, specified by simple data transfer protocols. This type of circuit is contrasted with synchronous circuits, in which changes to the signal values in the circuit are triggered by repetitive pulses called a clock signal. Most digital devices today use synchronous circuits. However asynchronous circuits have the potential to be faster, and may also have advantages in lower power consumption, lower electromagnetic interference, and better modularity in large systems. Asynchronous circuits are an active area of research in digital logic design.


The Muller C-element is a small digital block widely used in design of asynchronous circuits and systems. It has been specified formally in 1955 by David E. Muller and first used in ILLIAC II computer. In terms of the theory of lattices, the C-element is a semimodular distributive circuit, whose operation in time is described by a Hasse diagram. The C-element is closely related to the rendezvous and join elements, where an input is not allowed to change twice in succession. In some cases, when relations between delays are known, the C-element can be realized as a sum-of-product (SOP) circuit ,. Earlier techniques for implementing the C-element include Schmidt trigger, Eccles-Jordan flip-flop and last moving point flip-flop.

Metastability (electronics)

Metastability in electronics is the ability of a digital electronics system to persist for an unbounded time in an unstable equilibrium or metastable state. In digital logic circuits, a digital signal is required to be within certain voltage or current limits to represent a '0' or '1' logic level for correct circuit operation; if the signal is within a forbidden intermediate range it may cause faulty behavior in logic gates the signal is applied to. In metastable states, the circuit may be unable to settle into a stable '0' or '1' logic level within the time required for proper circuit operation. As a result, the circuit can act in unpredictable ways, and may lead to a system failure, sometimes referred to as a "glitch". Metastability is an instance of Buridan's paradox.

Scan chain is a technique used in design for testing. The objective is to make testing easier by providing a simple way to set and observe every flip-flop in an IC.The basic structure of scan include the following set of signals in order to control and observe the scan mechanism.

  1. Scan_in and scan_out define the input and output of a scan chain. In a full scan mode usually each input drives only one chain and scan out observe one as well.
  2. A scan enable pin is a special signal that is added to a design. When this signal is asserted, every flip-flop in the design is connected into a long shift register.
  3. Clock signal which is used for controlling all the FFs in the chain during shift phase and the capture phase. An arbitrary pattern can be entered into the chain of flip-flops, and the state of every flip-flop can be read out.

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 digital electronic design a clock domain crossing (CDC), or simply clock crossing, is the traversal of a signal in a synchronous digital circuit from one clock domain into another. If a signal does not assert long enough and is not registered, it may appear asynchronous on the incoming clock boundary.

A frequency divider, also called a clock divider or scaler or prescaler, is a circuit that takes an input signal of a frequency, , and generates an output signal of a frequency:

Timing closure is the process by which a logic design consisting of primitive elements such as combinatorial logic gates and sequential logic gates is modified to meet its timing requirements. Unlike in a computer program where there is no explicit delay to perform a calculation, logic circuits have intrinsic and well defined delays to propagate inputs to outputs. In simple cases, the user can compute the path delay between elements manually. If the design is more than a dozen or so elements this is impractical. For example, the time delay along a path from the output of a D-Flip Flop, through combinatorial logic gates, then into the next D-Flip Flop input must satisfy the time period between synchronizing clock pulses to the two flip flops. When the delay through the elements is greater than the clock cycle time, the elements are said to be on the critical path. The circuit will not function when the path delay exceeds the clock cycle delay so modifying the circuit to remove the timing failure is an important part of the logic design engineer's task.

Low Power flip-flops are flip-flops that are designed for low-power electronics, such as smartphones and notebooks. A flip-flop, or latch, is a circuit that has two stable states and can be used to store state information.

Vacuum tube computer computer using vacuum tubes instead of transistors (prevalent in 1950s)

A vacuum tube computer, now termed a first-generation computer, is a computer which uses vacuum tubes for logic circuitry. Although superseded by second generation, transistorized computers, vacuum tube computers continued to be built into the 1960s. These computers were mostly one-of-a-kind designs.


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  2. Cavanagh, Joseph (2006). Sequential Logic: Analysis and Synthesis. CRC Press. pp. ix. ISBN   0849375649.
  3. Lipiansky, Ed (2012). Electrical, Electronics, and Digital Hardware Essentials for Scientists and Engineers. John Wiley and Sons. p. 8.39. ISBN   1118414543.
  4. Dally, William J.; Harting, R. Curtis (2012). Digital Design: A Systems Approach. Cambridge University Press. p. 291. ISBN   0521199506.