A while ago I posted about a VHDL compiler I’d started writing. Well I’ve been working on it a bit during the evenings and weekends and it’s acquired several new features. Probably the most significant is that it can now compile the standard IEEE std_logic_1164 and numeric_std packages as well the Synopsys std_logic_arith and std_logic_unsigned packages. If you clone the latest version from GitHub these will be built and installed for you automatically. Note that the original IEEE sources cannot be redistributed due to copyright restrictions so you’ll have to faff about downloading them from the IEEE standards website first – see lib/ieee/README for details.

NVC also now supports a wider range of concurrent statements, including selected and conditional assignments.

This means we can rewrite the counter example from before in a more normal way:

library ieee;
use ieee.std_logic_1164.all;
use ieee.numeric_std.all;
entity counter is
    generic ( WIDTH : integer );
    port (
        clk   : in std_logic;
        reset : in std_logic;
        count : out unsigned(WIDTH - 1 downto 0) );
end entity;
architecture rtl of counter is
    signal count_r : unsigned(WIDTH - 1 downto 0);
    count <= count_r;
    process (clk) is
        if rising_edge(clk) then
            if reset = '1' then
                count_r <= (others => '0');
                count_r <= count_r + 1;
            end if;
        end if;            
    end process;
end architecture;

And similarly for the top-level test bench:

library ieee;
use ieee.std_logic_1164.all;
use ieee.numeric_std.all;
entity counter_tb is end entity;
architecture test of counter_tb is
    constant WIDTH : integer := 16;
    signal clk     : std_logic := '0';
    signal reset   : std_logic := '1';
    signal count   : unsigned(WIDTH - 1 downto 0);
    clk   <= not clk after 5 ns;
    reset <= '0' after 10 ns;
    uut: entity work.counter
        generic map ( WIDTH )
        port map ( clk, reset, count );    
end architecture;

Next we have to analyse and elaborate the design:

$ nvc -a counter.vhd
$ nvc -e counter_tb
/usr/lib/llvm-3.0/bin/llvm-ld -r -b /home/nick/nvc/build/work/_WORK.COUNTER_TB.final.bc /home/nick/nvc/build/work/_WORK.COUNTER_TB.elab.bc /home/nick/share/nvc/ieee/_IEEE.NUMERIC_STD-body.bc /home/nick/share/nvc/ieee/_IEEE.STD_LOGIC_1164-body.bc

The long llvm-ld line at the end is a new stage that links together the LLVM bitcode for the elaborated design with the bitcode for any referenced packages – the IEEE standard libraries in this case. This allows LLVM’s link time optimisation to optimise across package boundaries. For example, inlining trivial functions like rising_edge directly into the process.

$ nvc -r --stop-time=1ms --stats counter_tb
** Note: setup:28ms run:104ms maxrss:17872kB

LLVM JIT compilation accounts for most of the memory usage and 28ms setup time. However this overhead should be insignificant for any long-running simulation.

Just running the above simulation is fairly boring so I’ve also started adding a basic VCD dumper. This only works for a small set of data types but includes std_logic and std_logic_vector so should hopefully be quite useful in practice.

$ nvc -r --stop-time=100ns --vcd=out.vcd counter_tb

The output can then be opened in a VCD viewer such as GTKWave.

Note that writing out a VCD will slow the simulation considerably. In the future I’d like to be able to selectively dump signals and support other formats such as GHW or LXT2.