is a language for describing digital electronic systems. It arose out of the United States Government’s Very High Speed Integrated Circuits (VHSIC) program, initiated in 1980. In the course of this program, it became clear that there was a need for a standard language for describing the structure and function of integrated circuits (ICs). Hence the VHSIC Hardware Description Language (VHDL) was developed, and subsequently adopted as a standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
(IEEE) in the US.
is designed to fill a number of needs in the design process. Firstly, it allows description of the structure of a design, that is how it is decomposed into sub-designs, and how those sub-designs are interconnected. Secondly, it allows the specification of the function of designs using familiar programming language forms. Thirdly, as a result, it allows a design to be simulated before being manufactured, so that designers can quickly compare alternatives and test for correctness without the delay and expense of hardware prototyping.
The purpose of this booklet is to give readers a quick introduction to VHDL. This is done by informally describing the facilities provided by the language, and using examples to illustrate them. This booklet does not fully describe every aspect of the language. For such fine details, readers should consult the IEEE Standard VHDL Language Reference Manual. However, be warned: the standard is like a legal document, and is very difficult to read unless readers are already familiar with the language. This booklet does cover enough of the language for substantial model writing. It assumes readers know how to write computer programs using a conventional programming language such as Pascal, C or Ada
The remaining chapters of this booklet describe the various aspects of VHDL in a bottom-up manner. Chapter 2
describes the facilities of VHDL which most resemble normal sequential programming languages. These include data types, variables, expressions, sequential statements and subprograms. Chapter 3
then examines the facilities for describing the structure of a module and how it it decomposed into sub-modules. Chapter 4
covers aspects of VHDL that integrate the programming language features with a discrete event timing model to allow simulation of behaviour. Chapter 5
is a key chapter that shows how all these facilities are combined to form a complete model of a system. Then Chapter 6
is a pot pourri of more advanced features which readers may find useful for modeling more complex systems.
Throughout this booklet, the syntax of language features is presented in Backus-Naur Form
(BNF). The syntax specifications are drawn from the IEEE VHDL Standard. Concrete examples are also given to illustrate the language features. In some cases, some alternatives are omitted from BNF productions where they are not directly relevant to the context. For this reason, the full syntax is included in Appendix A, and should be consulted as a reference.