The complexity of integrated circuit (IC) chips has increased tremendously over the past 10 years. In the 1980s, designing an IC chip with several million transistors was simply unimaginable. Today, it is common to have several million transistors on an IC chip. This increase in IC chip complexity is mainly the result of integration of many functions into a single IC chip. With this fundamental change, the conventional method of schematic capture used in IC design became an obstacle to design engineers. It became extremely difficult for design engineers to “hand draw” the large amounts of schematics necessary to achieve the required functionality. Furthermore, IC chips are pushed onto the market at a very fast pace, creating a small time-to-market window. Designers are under constant pressure to design more complex IC chips at a faster rate.

Imagine design engineers needing to hand draw millions of transistors in their schematic! The task was simply impossible. A more efficient and productive method was needed to allow designers to create schematics with large numbers of logic gates within a reasonable timeframe. This lead to the development of hardware description language (HDL).

This new method allows a designer to code the logic functionality of a circuit in HDL. The code is then synthesized into logic gates using a synthesis tool. A common synthesis tool used in the industry is Synopsys's Design Compiler. (To learn how to use Synopsys's Design Compiler and to write ...

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