What’s new in MyHDL 0.4: Conversion to Verilog¶
MyHDL 0.4 supports the automatic conversion of a subset of MyHDL code to synthesizable Verilog code. This feature provides a direct path from Python to an FPGA or ASIC implementation.
MyHDL aims to be a complete design language, for tasks such as high level modeling and verification, but also for implementation. However, prior to 0.4 a user had to translate MyHDL code manually to Verilog or VHDL. Needless to say, this was inconvenient. With MyHDL0.4, this manual step is no longer necessary.
The solution works as follows. The hardware description should be
modeled in MyHDL style, and satisfy certain constraints that are typical
for implementation-oriented hardware modeling. Subsequently, such a
design is converted to an equivalent model in the Verilog language,
using the function
toVerilog() from the MyHDLlibrary. Finally, a
third-party synthesis tool is used to convert the Verilog design to a
gate implementation for an ASIC or FPGA. There are a number of Verilog
synthesis tools available, varying in price, capabilities, and target
The conversion does not start from source files, but from a design that has been elaborated by the Python interpreter. The converter uses the Python profiler to track the interpreter’s operation and to infer the design structure and name spaces. It then selectively compiles pieces of source code for additional analysis and for conversion. This is done using the Python compiler package.
The design is converted after elaboration¶
Elaboration refers to the initial processing of a hardware description
to achieve a representation of a design instance that is ready for
simulation or synthesis. In particular, structural parameters and
constructs are processed in this step. In MyHDL, the Python interpreter
itself is used for elaboration. A
Simulation object is
constructed with elaborated design instances as arguments. Likewise, the
Verilog conversion works on an elaborated design instance. The Python
interpreter is thus used as much as possible.
The structural description can be arbitrarily complex and hierarchical¶
As the conversion works on an elaborated design instance, any modeling constraints only apply to the leaf elements of the design structure, that is, the co-operating generators. In other words, there are no restrictions on the description of the design structure: Python’s full power can be used for that purpose. Also, the design hierarchy can be arbitrarily deep.
Generators are mapped to Verilog always or initial blocks¶
The converter analyzes the code of each generator and maps it to a
always blocks if possible, and to an
otherwise. The converted Verilog design will be a flat “net list of
The Verilog module interface is inferred from signal usage¶
In MyHDL, the input or output direction of interface signals is not explicitly declared. The converter investigates signal usage in the design hierarchy to infer whether a signal is used as input, output, or as an internal signal. Internal signals are given a hierarchical name in the Verilog output.
Function calls are mapped to a unique Verilog function or task call¶
The converter analyzes function calls and function code to see if they should be mapped to Verilog functions or to tasks. Python functions are much more powerful than Verilog subprograms; for example, they are inherently generic, and they can be called with named association. To support this power in Verilog, a unique Verilog function or task is generated per Python function call.
If-then-else structures may be mapped to Verilog case statements¶
Python does not provide a case statement. However, the converter recognizes if-then-else structures in which a variable is sequentially compared to items of an enumeration type, and maps such a structure to a Verilog case statement with the appropriate synthesis attributes.
Choice of encoding schemes for enumeration types¶
enum() function in MyHDL returns an enumeration type. This
function takes an additional parameter
encoding that specifies the
desired encoding in the implementation: binary, one hot, or one cold.
The Verilog converter generates the appropriate code.
The convertible subset¶
Unsurprisingly, not all MyHDL code can be converted to Verilog. In fact, there are very important restrictions. As the goal of the conversion functionality is implementation, this should not be a big issue: anyone familiar with synthesis is used to similar restrictions in the synthesizable subset of Verilog and VHDL. The converter attempts to issue clear error messages when it encounters a construct that cannot be converted.
In practice, the synthesizable subset usually refers to RTL synthesis,
which is by far the most popular type of synthesis today. There are
industry standards that define the RTL synthesis subset. However, those
were not used as a model for the restrictions of the MyHDL converter,
but as a minimal starting point. On that basis, whenever it was judged
easy or useful to support an additional feature, this was done. For
example, it is actually easier to convert
while loops than
for loops even though they are not RTL-synthesizable. As
Recall that any restrictions only apply to the design post elaboration. In practice, this means that they apply only to the code of the generators, that are the leaf functional blocks in a MyHDL design.
A natural restriction on convertible code is that it should be written
in MyHDL style: cooperating generators, communicating through signals,
yield statements specifying wait points and resume
conditions. Supported resume conditions are a signal edge, a signal
change, or a tuple of such conditions.
The most important restriction regards object types. Verilog is an almost typeless language, while Python is strongly (albeit dynamically) typed. The converter has to infer the types of names used in the code, and map those names to Verilog variables.
Only a limited amount of types can be converted. Python
long objects are mapped to Verilog integers. All other
supported types are mapped to Verilog regs (or wires), and therefore
need to have a defined bit width. The supported types are the Python
bool type, the MyHDL
intbv type, and MyHDL enumeration
types returned by function
enum(). The latter objects can also be
used as the base object of a
intbv objects must be constructed so that a bit width can be
inferred. This can be done by specifying minimum and maximum values,
e.g. as follows:
index = intbv(0, min=0, max=2**N)
Alternatively, a slice can be taken from an
intbv object as
index = intbv(0)[N:]
Such as slice returns a new
intbv object, with minimum value
0 , and maximum value
The following is a list of the statements that are supported by the Verilog converter, possibly qualified with restrictions or usage notes.
- The only supported iteration scheme is iterating through sequences
of integers returned by built-in function
downrange(). The optional
elseclause is not supported.
elseclauses are fully supported.
- When printing an interpolated string, the format specifiers are
copied verbatim to the Verilog output. Printing to a file (with
’>>’) is not supported.
- This statement is mapped to Verilog statements that end the simulation with an error message.
In the Python philosophy, the run-time rules. The Python compiler doesn’t attempt to detect a lot of errors beyond syntax errors, which given Python’s ultra-dynamic nature would be an almost impossible task anyway. To verify a Python program, one should run it, preferably using unit testing to verify each feature.
The same philosophy should be used when converting a MyHDL description to Verilog: make sure the simulation runs fine first. Although the converter checks many things and attempts to issue clear error messages, there is no guarantee that it does a meaningful job unless the simulation runs fine.
Conversion output verification¶
It is always prudent to verify the converted Verilog output. To make this task easier, the converter also generates a test bench that makes it possible to simulate the Verilog design using the Verilog co-simulation interface. This permits to verify the Verilog code with the same test bench used for the MyHDL code. This is also how the Verilog converter development is being verified.
Name assignment in Python¶
Name assignment in Python is a different concept than in many other languages. This point is very important for effective modeling in Python, and even more so for synthesizable MyHDL code. Therefore, the issues are discussed here explicitly.
Consider the following name assignments:
a = 4 a = ``a string'' a = False
In many languages, the meaning would be that an existing variable
gets a number of different values. In Python, such a concept of a
variable doesn’t exist. Instead, assignment merely creates a new binding
of a name to a certain object, that replaces any previous binding. So in
the example, the name
a is bound a number of different objects in
The Verilog converter has to investigate name assignment and usage in MyHDL code, and to map names to Verilog variables. To achieve that, it tries to infer the type and possibly the bit width of each expression that is assigned to a name.
Multiple assignments to the same name can be supported if it can be
determined that a consistent type and bit width is being used in the
assignments. This can be done for boolean expressions, numeric
expressions, and enumeration type literals. In Verilog, the
corresponding name is mapped to a single bit
reg with the appropriate width, respectively.
In other cases, a single assignment should be used when an object is
created. Subsequent value changes are then achieved by modification of
an existing object. This technique should be used for
Signal assignment in MyHDL is implemented using attribute assignment to
next. Value changes are thus modeled by modification of
the existing object. The converter investigates the
object to infer the type and bit width of the corresponding Verilog
intbv is likely to be the workhorse for synthesizable
modeling in MyHDL. An
intbv instance behaves like a (mutable)
integer whose individual bits can be accessed and modified. Also, it is
possible to constrain its set of values. In addition to error checking,
this makes it possible to infer a bit width, which is required for
In Verilog, an
intbv instance will be mapped to a
an appropriate width. As noted before, it is not possible to modify its
value using name assignment. In the following, we will show how it can
be done instead. Consider:
a = intbv(0)[8:]
This is an
intbv object with initial value
0 and bit width
8. The change its value to
5, we can use slice assignment:
a[8:] = 5
The same can be achieved by leaving the bit width unspecified, which has the meaning to change “all” bits:
a[:] = 5
Often the new value will depend on the old one. For example, to
intbv with the technique above:
a[:] = a + 1
Python also provides augmented assignment operators, which can be used
to implement in-place operations. These are supported on
objects and by the converter, so that the increment can also be done as
a += 1
We will demonstrate the conversion process by showing some examples.
A small design with a single generator¶
Consider the following MyHDL code for an incrementer module:
def inc(count, enable, clock, reset, n): """ Incrementer with enable. count -- output enable -- control input, increment when 1 clock -- clock input reset -- asynchronous reset input n -- counter max value """ def incProcess(): while 1: yield posedge(clock), negedge(reset) if reset == ACTIVE_LOW: count.next = 0 else: if enable: count.next = (count + 1) % n return incProcess()
In Verilog terminology, function
inc() corresponds to a module,
while generator function
incProcess() roughly corresponds to an
Normally, to simulate the design, we would “elaborate” an instance as follows:
m = 8 n = 2 ** m count = Signal(intbv(0)[m:]) enable = Signal(bool(0)) clock, reset = [Signal(bool()) for i in range(2)] inc_inst = inc(count, enable, clock, reset, n=n)
incinst is an elaborated design instance that can be simulated. To
convert it to Verilog, we change the last line as follows:
inc_inst = toVerilog(inc, count, enable, clock, reset, n=n)
Again, this creates an instance that can be simulated, but as a side effect, it also generates an equivalent Verilog module in file . The Verilog code looks as follows:
module inc_inst ( count, enable, clock, reset ); output [7:0] count; reg [7:0] count; input enable; input clock; input reset; always @(posedge clock or negedge reset) begin: _MYHDL1_BLOCK if ((reset == 0)) begin count <= 0; end else begin if (enable) begin count <= ((count + 1) % 256); end end end endmodule
You can see the module interface and the always block, as expected from the MyHDL design.
Converting a generator directly¶
It is also possible to convert a generator directly. For example, consider the following generator function:
def bin2gray(B, G, width): """ Gray encoder. B -- input intbv signal, binary encoded G -- output intbv signal, gray encoded width -- bit width """ Bext = intbv(0)[width+1:] while 1: yield B Bext[:] = B for i in range(width): G.next[i] = Bext[i+1] ^ Bext[i]
As before, you can create an instance and convert to Verilog as follows:
width = 8 B = Signal(intbv(0)[width:]) G = Signal(intbv(0)[width:]) bin2gray_inst = toVerilog(bin2gray, B, G, width)
The generated Verilog code looks as follows:
module bin2gray_inst ( B, G ); input [7:0] B; output [7:0] G; reg [7:0] G; always @(B) begin: _MYHDL1_BLOCK integer i; reg [9-1:0] Bext; Bext[9-1:0] = B; for (i=0; i<8; i=i+1) begin G[i] <= (Bext[(i + 1)] ^ Bext[i]); end end endmodule
A hierarchical design¶
The hierarchy of convertible designs can be arbitrarily deep.
For example, suppose we want to design an incrementer with Gray code output. Using the designs from previous sections, we can proceed as follows:
def GrayInc(graycnt, enable, clock, reset, width): bincnt = Signal(intbv()[width:]) INC_1 = inc(bincnt, enable, clock, reset, n=2**width) BIN2GRAY_1 = bin2gray(B=bincnt, G=graycnt, width=width) return INC_1, BIN2GRAY_1
According to Gray code properties, only a single bit will change in
consecutive values. However, as the
bin2gray module is
combinatorial, the output bits may have transient glitches, which may
not be desirable. To solve this, let’s create an additional level of
hierarchy and add an output register to the design. (This will create an
additional latency of a clock cycle, which may not be acceptable, but we
will ignore that here.)
def GrayIncReg(graycnt, enable, clock, reset, width): graycnt_comb = Signal(intbv()[width:]) GRAY_INC_1 = GrayInc(graycnt_comb, enable, clock, reset, width) def reg(): while 1: yield posedge(clock) graycnt.next = graycnt_comb REG_1 = reg() return GRAY_INC_1, REG_1
We can convert this hierarchical design as before:
width = 8 graycnt = Signal(intbv()[width:]) enable, clock, reset = [Signal(bool()) for i in range(3)] GRAY_INC_REG_1 = toVerilog(GrayIncReg, graycnt, enable, clock, reset, width)
The Verilog output code looks as follows:
module GRAY_INC_REG_1 ( graycnt, enable, clock, reset ); output [7:0] graycnt; reg [7:0] graycnt; input enable; input clock; input reset; reg [7:0] graycnt_comb; reg [7:0] _GRAY_INC_1_bincnt; always @(posedge clock or negedge reset) begin: _MYHDL1_BLOCK if ((reset == 0)) begin _GRAY_INC_1_bincnt <= 0; end else begin if (enable) begin _GRAY_INC_1_bincnt <= ((_GRAY_INC_1_bincnt + 1) % 256); end end end always @(_GRAY_INC_1_bincnt) begin: _MYHDL4_BLOCK integer i; reg [9-1:0] Bext; Bext[9-1:0] = _GRAY_INC_1_bincnt; for (i=0; i<8; i=i+1) begin graycnt_comb[i] <= (Bext[(i + 1)] ^ Bext[i]); end end always @(posedge clock) begin: _MYHDL9_BLOCK graycnt <= graycnt_comb; end endmodule
Note that the output is a flat “net list of blocks”, and that hierarchical signal names are generated as necessary.
Optimizations for finite state machines¶
As often in hardware design, finite state machines deserve special attention.
In Verilog and VHDL, finite state machines are typically described using case statements. Python doesn’t have a case statement, but the converter recognizes particular if-then-else structures and maps them to case statements. This optimization occurs when a variable whose type is an enumerated type is sequentially tested against enumeration items in an if-then-else structure. Also, the appropriate synthesis pragmas for efficient synthesis are generated in the Verilog code.
As a further optimization, function
enum() was enhanced to support
alternative encoding schemes elegantly, using an additional parameter
encoding. For example:
t_State = enum('SEARCH', 'CONFIRM', 'SYNC', encoding='one_hot')
The default encoding is
’binary’; the other possibilities are
’onecold’. This parameter only affects the
conversion output, not the behavior of the type. The generated Verilog
code for case statements is optimized for an efficient implementation
according to the encoding. Note that in contrast, a Verilog designer has
to make nontrivial code changes to implement a different encoding
As an example, consider the following finite state machine, whose state variable uses the enumeration type defined above:
FRAME_SIZE = 8 def FramerCtrl(SOF, state, syncFlag, clk, reset_n): """ Framing control FSM. SOF -- start-of-frame output bit state -- FramerState output syncFlag -- sync pattern found indication input clk -- clock input reset_n -- active low reset """ index = intbv(0, min=0, max=8) # position in frame while 1: yield posedge(clk), negedge(reset_n) if reset_n == ACTIVE_LOW: SOF.next = 0 index[:] = 0 state.next = t_State.SEARCH else: SOF.next = 0 if state == t_State.SEARCH: index[:] = 0 if syncFlag: state.next = t_State.CONFIRM elif state == t_State.CONFIRM: if index == 0: if syncFlag: state.next = t_State.SYNC else: state.next = t_State.SEARCH elif state == t_State.SYNC: if index == 0: if not syncFlag: state.next = t_State.SEARCH SOF.next = (index == FRAME_SIZE-1) else: raise ValueError("Undefined state") index[:]= (index + 1) % FRAME_SIZE
The conversion is done as before:
SOF = Signal(bool(0)) syncFlag = Signal(bool(0)) clk = Signal(bool(0)) reset_n = Signal(bool(1)) state = Signal(t_State.SEARCH) framerctrl_inst = toVerilog(FramerCtrl, SOF, state, syncFlag, clk, reset_n)
The Verilog output looks as follows:
module framerctrl_inst ( SOF, state, syncFlag, clk, reset_n ); output SOF; reg SOF; output [2:0] state; reg [2:0] state; input syncFlag; input clk; input reset_n; always @(posedge clk or negedge reset_n) begin: _MYHDL1_BLOCK reg [3-1:0] index; if ((reset_n == 0)) begin SOF <= 0; index[3-1:0] = 0; state <= 3'b001; end else begin SOF <= 0; // synthesis parallel_case full_case casez (state) 3'b??1: begin index[3-1:0] = 0; if (syncFlag) begin state <= 3'b010; end end 3'b?1?: begin if ((index == 0)) begin if (syncFlag) begin state <= 3'b100; end else begin state <= 3'b001; end end end 3'b1??: begin if ((index == 0)) begin if ((!syncFlag)) begin state <= 3'b001; end end SOF <= (index == (8 - 1)); end default: begin $display("Verilog: ValueError(Undefined state)"); $finish; end endcase index[3-1:0] = ((index + 1) % 8); end end endmodule
- Negative values of
intbvinstances are not supported.
intbvclass is quite capable of representing negative values. However, the
signedtype support in Verilog is relatively recent and mapping to it may be tricky. In my judgment, this was not the most urgent requirement, so I decided to leave this for later.
- Verilog integers are 32 bit wide
- Usually, Verilog integers are 32 bit wide. In contrast, Python is
moving toward integers with undefined width. Python
longvariables are mapped to Verilog integers; so for values wider than 32 bit this mapping is incorrect.
- Synthesis pragmas are specified as Verilog comments.
- The recommended way to specify synthesis pragmas in Verilog is
through attribute lists. However, my Verilog simulator (Icarus)
doesn’t support them for
casestatements (to specify
fullcasepragmas). Therefore, I still used the old but deprecated method of synthesis pragmas in Verilog comments.
- Inconsistent place of the sensitivity list inferred from
- The semantics of
alwayscomb, both in Verilog and MyHDL, is to have an implicit sensitivity list at the end of the code. However, this may not be synthesizable. Therefore, the inferred sensitivity list is put at the top of the corresponding
alwaysblock. This may cause inconsistent behavior at the start of the simulation. The workaround is to create events at time 0.
- Non-blocking assignments to task arguments don’t work.
- I didn’t get non-blocking (signal) assignments to task arguments to work. I don’t know yet whether the issue is my own, a Verilog issue, or an issue with my Verilog simulator Icarus. I’ll need to check this further.