Digital Electronics 1st Year (Unit 3)




Asynchronous Counters

Asynchronous counters are those whose output is free from the clock signal. Because the flip flops in asynchronous counters are supplied with different clock signals, there may be delay in producing output.

The required number of logic gates to design asynchronous counters is very less. So they are simple in design. Another name for Asynchronous counters is “Ripple counters”.

The number of flip flops used in a ripple counter depends up on the number of states of counter (ex: Mod 4, Mod 2 etc). The number of output states of counter is called “Modulus” or “MOD” of the counter. The maximum number of states that a counter can have is 2n where n represents the number of flip flops used in counter.

For example, if we have 2 flip flops, the maximum number of outputs of the counter is 4 i.e.

  • So it is called as “MOD-4 counter” or “Modulus 4 counter”.

Different types of Asynchronous counters

There are many types of Asynchronous counters available in digital electronics. They are

  • 4 bit synchronous UP counter
    • 4 bit synchronous DOWN counter
    • 4 bit synchronous UP / DOWN counter

Asynchronous 4-bit UP counter

A 4 bit asynchronous UP counter with D flip flop is shown in above diagram. It is capable of counting numbers from 0 to 15. The clock inputs of all flip flops are cascaded and the D input (DATA input) of each flip flop is connected to a state output of the flip flop.

That means the flip flops will toggle at each active edge or positive edge of the clock signal. The clock input is connected to first flip flop. The other flip flops in counter receive the clock signal input from Q’ output of previous flip flop. The output of the first flip flop will change, when the positive edge on clock signal occurs.

In the asynchronous 4- bit up counter, the flip flops are connected in toggle mode, so when the when the clock input is connected to first flip flop FF0, then its output after one clock pulse will become 20.

The rising edge of the Q output of each flip flop triggers the clock input of its next flip flop. It triggers the next clock frequency to half of its applied input. The Q outputs of every individual flip flop (Q0, Q1, Q2, Q3) represents the count of the 4 bit UP counter such as 20 (1) to 23 (8).

Working of asynchronous up counter

Let us assume that the 4 Q outputs of the flip flops are initially 0000. When the rising edge of the clock pulse is applied to the FF0, then the output Q0 will change to logic 1 and the next clock pulse will change the Q0 output to logic 0. This means the output state of the clock pulse toggles (changes from 0 to1) for one cycle.

As the Q’ of FF0 is connected to the clock input of FF1, then the clock input of second flip flop will become 1. This makes the output of FF1 to be high (i.e. Q1 = 1), which indicates the value 20. In this way the next clock pulse will make the Q0 to become high again.

So now both Q0 and Q1 are high, this results in making the 4 bit output 11002. Now if we apply the fourth clock pulse, it will make the Q0 and Q1 to low state and toggles the FF2. So the output Q2 will become 0010¬2. As this circuit is 4 bit up counter, the output is sequence of binary values from 0, 1, 2, 3….15 i.e. 00002 to 11112 (0 to 1510).

Timing Diagram

For example, if the present count = 3, then the up counter will calculate the next count as 4.

Asynchronous 4-bit DOWN counter

A 4 bit asynchronous DOWN counter is shown in above diagram. It is simple modification of the UP counter. 4 bit DOWN counter will count numbers from 15 to 0, downwards. The clock inputs of all flip flops are cascaded and the D input (DATA input) of each flip flop is connected to logic 1.

That means the flip flops will toggle at each active edge (positive edge) of the clock signal. The clock input is connected to first flip flop. The other flip flops in counter receive the clock signal input from Q output of previous flip flop, rather than Q’ output.

Here Q0, Q1, Q2, Q3 represents the count of the 4 bit down counter. The output of the first flip flop will change, when the positive edge of clock signal occurs. For example, if the present count = 3, then the up counter will calculate the next count as 2. The input clock will cause the change in output (count) of the next flip-flop.

The operation of down counter is exactly opposite to the up counter operation. Here every clock pulse at the input will reduce the count of the individual flip flop. So the down counter counts from 15, 14, 13…0 i.e. (0 to 1510) or 11112 to 00002.

Both up and down counters are designed using the asynchronous, based on clock signal, we don’t use them widely, because of their unreliability at high clock speeds.

What is clock ripple?

The sum of time delay of individual clock pulses, that drive the circuit is called “Clock ripple”. The below figure explains how the logic gates will create propagation delay, in each flip flop.

The propagation delays of logic gates are represented by blue lines. Each of them will add to the delay of next flip flop and the sum of all these individual flip flops is known as the propagation delay of circuit.

As the outputs of all flip-flops change at different time intervals and for every different inputs at clock signal, a new value occurs at output each time. For example, at clock pulse 8, the output should change from 11102 (710) to 00012 (810), in some time delay of 400 to 700 ns (Nano Seconds).

For clock pulses other than 8, the sequence will change.

Although this problem prevents the circuit being used as a reliable counter, it is still valuable as a simple and effective frequency divider, where a high frequency oscillator provides the input and each flip-flop in the chain divides the frequency by two. This is all about clock ripple.

Asynchronous 3-bit up/down counters

By adding up the ideas of UP counter and DOWN counters, we can design asynchronous up

/down counter. The 3 bit asynchronous up/ down counter is shown below.

It can count in either ways, up to down or down to up, based on the clock signal input.

UP Counting

If the UP input and down inputs are 1 and 0 respectively, then the NAND gates between first flip flop to third flip flop will pass the non inverted output of FF 0 to the clock input of FF 1. Similarly, Q output of FF 1 will pass to the clock input of FF 2. Thus the UP /down counter performs up counting.

DOWN Counting

If the DOWN input and up inputs are 1 and 0 respectively, then the NAND gates between first flip flop to third flip flop will pass the inverted output of FF 0 to the clock input of FF 1. Similarly, Q output of FF 1 will pass to the clock input of FF 2. Thus the UP /down counter performs down counting.

The up/ down counter is slower than up counter or a down counter, because the addition propagation delay will added to the NAND gate network


  • Asynchronous counters can be easily designed by T flip flop or D flip flop.
    • These are also called as Ripple counters, and are used in low speed circuits.
    • They are used as Divide by- n counters, which divide the input by n, where n is an integer.
    • Asynchronous counters are also used as Truncated counters. These can be used to design any mod number counters, i.e. even Mod (ex: mod 4) or odd Mod (ex: mod3).


  • Sometimes extra flip flop may be required for “Re synchronization”.
    • To count the sequence of truncated counters (mod is not equal to 2n), we need additional feedback logic.
    • While counting large number of bits, the propagation delay of asynchronous counters is very large.
    • For high clock frequencies, counting errors may occur, due to propagation delay.

Applications of Asynchronous Counters

  • Asynchronous counters are used as frequency dividers, as divide by N counters.
    • These are used for low power applications and low noise emission.
    • These are used in designing asynchronous decade counter.
    • Also used in Ring counter and Johnson counter.
    • Asynchronous counters are used in Mod N ripple counters. EX: Mod 3, Mod 4, Mod 8, Mod 14, Mod 10 etc.

Synchronous Counter

In Asynchronous binary counter, the output of one counter stage is connected directly to the clock input of the next counter stage and so on along the chain.

The result of this is that the Asynchronous counter suffers from what is known as “Propagation Delay” in which the timing signal is delayed a fraction through each flip-flop.

However, with the Synchronous Counter, the external clock signal is connected to the clock input of EVERY individual flip-flop within the counter so that all of the flip-flops are clocked together simultaneously (in parallel) at the same time giving a fixed time relationship. In other words, changes in the output occur in “synchronization” with the clock signal.

The result of this synchronization is that all the individual output bits changing state at exactly the same time in response to the common clock signal with no ripple effect and therefore, no propagation delay.

Binary 4-bit Synchronous Up Counter

It can be seen above, that the external clock pulses (pulses to be counted) are fed directly to each of the J-K flip-flops in the counter chain and that both the J and K inputs are all tied together in toggle mode, but only in the first flip-flop, flip-flop FFA (LSB) are they connected HIGH, logic “1” allowing the flip-flop to toggle on every clock pulse. Then the synchronous counter follows a predetermined sequence of states in response to the common clock signal, advancing one state for each pulse.

The J and K inputs of flip-flop FFB are connected directly to the output QA of flip-flop FFA, but the J and K inputs of flip-flops FFC and FFD are driven from separate AND gates which are also supplied with signals from the input and output of the previous stage. These additional AND gates generate the required logic for the JK inputs of the next stage.

If we enable each JK flip-flop to toggle based on whether or not all preceding flip-flop outputs (Q) are “HIGH” we can obtain the same counting sequence as with the asynchronous circuit but without the ripple effect, since each flip-flop in this circuit will be clocked at exactly the same time.

Then as there is no inherent propagation delay in synchronous counters, because all the counter stages are triggered in parallel at the same time, the maximum operating frequency of this type of frequency counter is much higher than that for a similar asynchronous counter circuit.

  • bit Synchronous Counter Waveform Timing Diagram

Because this 4-bit synchronous counter counts sequentially on every clock pulse the resulting outputs count upwards from 0 ( 0000 ) to 15 ( 1111 ). Therefore, this type of counter is also known as a 4-bit Synchronous Up Counter.

However, we can easily construct a 4-bit Synchronous Down Counter by connecting the AND gates to the Q output of the flip-flops as shown to produce a waveform timing diagram the reverse of the above. Here the counter starts with all of its outputs HIGH ( 1111 ) and it counts down on the application of each clock pulse to zero, ( 0000 ) before repeating again.

Binary 4-bit Synchronous Down Counter

As synchronous counters are formed by connecting flip-flops together and any number of flip-flops can be connected or “cascaded” together to form a “divide-by-n” binary counter, the modulo’s or “MOD” number still applies as it does for asynchronous counters so a Decade counter or BCD counter with counts from 0 to 2n-1 can be built along with truncated sequences. All we need to increase the MOD count of an up or down synchronous counter is an additional flip-flop and AND gate across it.

Decade 4-bit Synchronous Counter

A 4-bit decade synchronous counter can also be built using synchronous binary counters to produce a count sequence from 0 to 9. A standard binary counter can be converted to a decade (decimal 10) counter with the aid of some additional logic to implement the desired state sequence. After reaching the count of “1001”, the counter recycles back to “0000”. We now have a decade or Modulo-10 counter.

Decade 4-bit Synchronous Counter

The additional AND gates detect when the counting sequence reaches “1001”, (Binary 10) and causes flip-flop FF3 to toggle on the next clock pulse. Flip-flop FF0 toggles on every clock pulse. Thus, the count is reset and starts over again at “0000” producing a synchronous decade counter.

We could quite easily re-arrange the additional AND gates in the above counter circuit to produce other count numbers such as a Mod-12 counter which counts 12 states from”0000″ to “1011” (0 to 11) and then repeats making them suitable for clocks, etc.

Triggering A Synchronous Counter

Synchronous Counters use edge-triggered flip-flops that change states on either the “positive-edge” (rising edge) or the “negative-edge” (falling edge) of the clock pulse on the control input resulting in one single count when the clock input changes state.

Generally, synchronous counters count on the rising-edge which is the low to high transition of the clock signal and asynchronous ripple counters count on the falling-edge which is the high to low transition of the clock signal.

It may seem unusual that ripple counters use the falling-edge of the clock cycle to change state, but this makes it easier to link counters together because the most significant bit (MSB) of one counter can drive the clock input of the next.

This works because the next bit must change state when the previous bit changes from high to low – the point at which a carry must occur to the next bit. Synchronous counters usually have a carry-out and a carry-in pin for linking counters together without introducing any propagation delays.

Synchronous Counter Summary

Then to summarize some of the main points about Synchronous Counters:

  1. Synchronous Counters can be made from Toggle or D-type flip-flops.
    1. Synchronous counters are easier to design than asynchronous counters.
    1. They are called synchronous counters because the clock input of the flip-flops
    1. are all clocked together at the same time with the same clock signal.
    1. Due to this common clock pulse all output states switch or change simultaneously.
    1. With all clock inputs wired together there is no inherent propagation delay.
    1. Synchronous counters are sometimes called parallel counters as the clock is fed in parallel to all flip-flops.
    1. The inherent memory circuit keeps track of the counters present state.
    1. The count sequence is controlled using logic gates.
    1. Overall faster operation may be achieved compared to Asynchronous counters.

Bidirectional Counter

Both Synchronous and Asynchronous counters are capable of counting “Up” or counting “Down”, but there is another more “Universal” type of counter that can count in both directions either Up or Down depending on the state of their input control pin and these are known as Bidirectional Counters.

Bidirectional counters, also known as Up/Down counters, are capable of counting in either direction through any given count sequence and they can be reversed at any point within their count sequence by using an additional control input as shown below.

Synchronous 3-bit Up/Down Counter

The circuit above is of a simple 3-bit Up/Down synchronous counter using JK flip-flops configured to operate as toggle or T-type flip-flops giving a maximum count of zero (000) to seven (111) and back to zero again. Then the 3-Bit counter advances upward in sequence (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7) or downwards in reverse sequence (7,6,5,4,3,2,1,0).

Generally, most bidirectional counter chips can be made to change their count direction either up or down at any point within their counting sequence. This is achieved by using an additional input pin which determines the direction of the count, either Up or Down and the timing diagram gives an example of the counter operation as this Up/Down input changes state.

Nowadays, both up and down counters are incorporated into single IC that is fully programmable to count in both an “Up” and a “Down” direction from any preset value producing a complete Bidirectional Counter chip. Common chips available are the 74HC190 4-bit BCD decade Up/Down counter, the 74F569 is a fully synchronous Up/Down binary counter and the CMOS 4029 4-bit Synchronous Up/Down counter.


Shift Register

In Shift Register we apply a serial data signal to the input of a Serial-in to Serial-out Shift Register, the same sequence of data will exit from the last flip flip in the register chain.

This serial movement of data through the resister occurs after a preset number of clock cycles thereby allowing the SISO register to act as a sort of time delay circuit to the original input data signal.

But what if we were to connect the output of this shift register back to its input so that the output from the last flip-flop, QD becomes the input of the first flip-flop, QA. We would then have a closed loop circuit that “recirculates” the same bit of DATA around a continuous loop for every state of its sequence, and this is the principal operation of a Ring Counter.

A ring counter is a type of counter composed of flip-flops connected into a shift register, with the output of the last flip-flop fed to the input of the first, making a ‘’circular’’ or ‘’ring’’ structure.

There are two types of ring counters:

  • Straight ring counter-connects the output of the last shift register to the first shift register input and circulates a single one (or zero) bit around the ring.
  • Twisted ring counter-connects the complement of output of the last shift register to the input of the first register and circulates a stream of ones followed by zeros around the ring.

By looping the output back to the input, (feedback) we can convert a standard shift register circuit into a ring counter. Consider the circuit below.

4- bit Ring Counter

The synchronous Ring Counter example above, is preset so that exactly one data bit in the register is set to logic “1” with all the other bits reset to “0”. To achieve this, a “CLEAR” signal is firstly applied to all the flip-flops together in order to “RESET” their outputs to a logic “0” level and then a “PRESET” pulse is applied to the input of the first flip-flop ( FFA ) before the clock pulses are applied. This then places a single logic “1” value into the circuit of the ring counter.

So on each successive clock pulse, the counter circulates the same data bit between the four flip-flops over and over again around the “ring” every fourth clock cycle. But in order to cycle the data

correctly around the counter we must first “load” the counter with a suitable data pattern as all logic “0’s” or all logic “1’s” outputted at each clock cycle would make the ring counter invalid.

This type of data movement is called “rotation”, and like the previous shift register, the effect of the movement of the data bit from left to right through a ring counter can be presented graphically as follows along with its timing diagram:

Rotational Movement of a Ring Counter

Since the ring counter example shown above has four distinct states, it is also known as a “modulo-4” or “mod-4” counter with each flip-flop output having a frequency value equal to one-fourth or a quarter (1/4) that of the main clock frequency.

The “MODULO” or “MODULUS” of a counter is the number of states the counter counts or sequences through before repeating itself and a ring counter can be made to output any modulo number. A “mod-n” ring counter will require “n” number of flip-flops connected together to circulate a single data bit providing “n” different output states.

For example, a mod-8 ring counter requires eight flip-flops and a mod-16 ring counter would require sixteen flip-flops. However, as in our example above, only four of the possible sixteen states are used, making ring counters very inefficient in terms of their output state usage.


  • Ring counter is mostly used in successive approximation type ADC and stepper motor control.
    • In ring counter, the output of the last flip flop is connected to the input of the first flip flop.
    • Decoding is easy in ring counter as the number of states is equal to the number of flip flops.
    • If ‘n’ is the number of flip flops that is used in ring counter, the number of possible states is ‘n’. That means the number of states is equal to the number of flip flops used.
    • In ring counter, if input frequency is f in ring counter then the output is f/n.
    • The total number of unused states in the ring counter is (2^n-n).

Johnson Ring Counter

The Johnson Ring Counter or “Twisted Ring Counters”, is another shift register with feedback exactly the same as the standard Ring Counter above, except that this time the inverted output Q of the last flip-flop is now connected back to the input D of the first flip-flop as shown below.

The main advantage of this type of ring counter is that it only needs half the number of flip-flops compared to the standard ring counter then its modulo number is halved. So a “n-stage” Johnson counter will circulate a single data bit giving sequence of 2n different states and can therefore be considered as a “mod-2n counter”.

4- bit Johnson Ring Counter

This inversion of Q before it is fed back to input D causes the counter to “count” in a different way. Instead of counting through a fixed set of patterns like the normal ring counter such as for a 4-bit counter, “0001”(1), “0010”(2), “0100”(4), “1000”(8) and repeat, the Johnson counter counts up and then down as the initial logic “1” passes through it to the right replacing the preceding logic “0”.

A 4-bit Johnson ring counter passes blocks of four logic “0” and then four logic “1” thereby producing an 8-bit pattern. As the inverted output Q is connected to the input D this 8-bit pattern continually repeats. For example, “1000”, “1100”, “1110”, “1111”, “0111”, “0011”, “0001”, “0000” and this is demonstrated in the following table below.

Truth Table for a 4-bit Johnson Ring Counter

Clock Pulse No FFA FFB FFC FFD 0 0 0 0 0

1 1 0 0 0

2 1 1 0 0

3 1 1 1 0

4 1 1 1 1

5 0 1 1 1

6 0 0 1 1

7 0 0 0 1

As well as counting or rotating data around a continuous loop, ring counters can also be used to detect or recognize various patterns or number values within a set of data. By connecting simple logic gates such as the AND or the OR gates to the outputs of the flip-flops the circuit can be made to detect a set number or value.

Standard 2, 3 or 4-stage Johnson Ring Counters can also be used to divide the frequency of the clock signal by varying their feedback connections and divide-by-3 or divide-by-5 outputs are also available.

For example, a 3-stage Johnson Ring Counter could be used as a 3-phase, 120 degree phase shift square wave generator by connecting to the data outputs at A, B and NOT-B.

The standard 5-stage Johnson counter such as the commonly available CD4017 is generally used as a synchronous decade counter/divider circuit.


  • Johnson counter is also referred to as walking counter or switching tail counter and is mostly used in phase shift or function generator.
    • In Johnson counter, the output bar or Q-bar of the last flip flop is connected to the input of the first flip flop.
    • Decoding Johnson counter is complex as compared to ring to counter.
    • If ‘n’ is the number of flip flop used in Johnson counter, then the total number of states used is ‘2n’.
    • In Johnson counter, if input frequency is ‘f’ then the output is ‘f/2n’.
    • The total number of unused states in Johnson counter is (2^n-2n).Bottom of Form

The Shift Register is another type of sequential logic circuit that can be used for the storage or the transfer of binary data. This sequential device loads the data present on its inputs and then moves or “shifts” it to its output once every clock cycle, hence the name Shift Register.

A shift register basically consists of several single bit “D-Type Data Latches”, one for each data bit, either a logic “0” or a “1”, connected together in a serial type daisy-chain arrangement so that the output from one data latch becomes the input of the next latch and so on.

Data bits may be fed in or out of a shift register serially, that is one after the other from either the left or the right direction, or all together at the same time in a parallel configuration.

The number of individual data latches required to make up a single Shift Register device is usually determined by the number of bits to be stored with the most common being 8-bits (one byte) wide constructed from eight individual data latches.

Shift Registers are used for data storage or for the movement of data and are therefore commonly used inside calculators or computers to store data such as two binary numbers before they are added together, or to convert the data from either a serial to parallel or parallel to serial format. The individual data latches that make up a single shift register are all driven by a common clock ( Clk ) signal making them synchronous devices.

Shift register IC’s are generally provided with a clear or reset connection so that they can be “SET” or “RESET” as required. Generally, shift registers operate in one of four different modes with the basic movement of data through a shift register being:

  • Serial-in to Parallel-out (SIPO) – the register is loaded with serial data, one bit at a time, with the stored data being available at the output in parallel form.
    • Serial-in to Serial-out (SISO) – the data is shifted serially “IN” and “OUT” of the register, one bit at a time in either a left or right direction under clock control.
    • Parallel-in to Serial-out (PISO) – the parallel data is loaded into the register simultaneously and is shifted out of the register serially one bit at a time under clock control.
    • Parallel-in to Parallel-out (PIPO) – the parallel data is loaded simultaneously into the register, and transferred together to their respective outputs by the same clock pulse.

The effect of data movement from left to right through a shift register can be presented graphically as:

Serial-in to Parallel-out (SIPO) Shift Register 4-bit Serial-in to Parallel-out Shift Register

The operation is as follows. Lets assume that all the flip-flops ( FFA to FFD ) have just been RESET ( CLEAR input ) and that all the outputs QA to QD are at logic level “0” ie, no parallel data output.

If a logic “1” is connected to the DATA input pin of FFA then on the first clock pulse the output of FFA and therefore the resulting QA will be set HIGH to logic “1” with all the other outputs still remaining LOW at logic “0”. Assume now that the DATA input pin of FFA has returned LOW again to logic “0” giving us one data pulse or 0-1-0.

The second clock pulse will change the output of FFA to logic “0” and the output of FFB and QB HIGH to logic “1” as its input D has the logic “1” level on it from QA. The logic “1” has now moved or been “shifted” one place along the register to the right as it is now at QA.

When the third clock pulse arrives this logic “1” value moves to the output of FFC ( QC ) and so on until the arrival of the fifth clock pulse which sets all the outputs QA to QD back again to logic level “0” because the input to FFA has remained constant at logic level “0”.

The effect of each clock pulse is to shift the data contents of each stage one place to the right, and this is shown in the following table until the complete data value of 0-0-0-1 is stored in the register. This data value can now be read directly from the outputs of QA to QD.

Then the data has been converted from a serial data input signal to a parallel data output. The truth table and following waveforms show the propagation of the logic “1” through the register from left to right as follows.

Basic Data Movement Through A Shift Register

Note that after the fourth clock pulse has ended the 4-bits of data ( 0-0-0-1 ) are stored in the register and will remain there provided clocking of the register has stopped. In practice the input data to the register may consist of various combinations of logic “1” and “0”. Commonly available SIPO IC’s include the standard 8-bit 74LS164 or the 74LS594.

Serial-in to Serial-out (SISO) Shift Register

This shift register is very similar to the SIPO above, except were before the data was read directly in a parallel form from the outputs QA to QD, this time the data is allowed to flow straight through the register and out of the other end. Since there is only one output, the DATA leaves the shift register one bit at a time in a serial pattern, hence the name Serial-in to Serial-Out Shift Register or SISO.

The SISO shift register is one of the simplest of the four configurations as it has only three connections, the serial input (SI) which determines what enters the left hand flip-flop, the serial output (SO) which is taken from the output of the right hand flip-flop and the sequencing clock signal (Clk). The logic circuit diagram below shows a generalized serial-in serial-out shift register.

4-bit Serial-in to Serial-out Shift Register

You may think what’s the point of a SISO shift register if the output data is exactly the same as the input data. Well this type of Shift Register also acts as a temporary storage device or it can act as a time delay device for the data, with the amount of time delay being controlled by the number of stages in the register, 4, 8, 16 etc or by varying the application of the clock pulses.

Commonly available IC’s include the 74HC595 8-bit Serial-in to Serial-out Shift Register all with 3-state outputs.

Parallel-in to Serial-out (PISO) Shift Register

The Parallel-in to Serial-out shift register acts in the opposite way to the serial-in to parallel-out one above. The data is loaded into the register in a parallel format in which all the data bits enter their inputs simultaneously, to the parallel input pins PA to PD of the register. The data is then read out sequentially in the normal shift-right mode from the register at Q representing the data present at PA to PD.

This data is outputted one bit at a time on each clock cycle in a serial format. It is important to note that with this type of data register a clock pulse is not required to parallel load the register as it is already present, but four clock pulses are required to unload the data.

4-bit Parallel-in to Serial-out Shift Register

As this type of shift register converts parallel data, such as an 8-bit data word into serial format, it can be used to multiplex many different input lines into a single serial DATA stream which can be sent directly to a computer or transmitted over a communications line. Commonly available IC’s include the 74HC166 8-bit Parallel-in/Serial-out Shift Registers.

Parallel-in to Parallel-out (PIPO) Shift Register

The final mode of operation is the Parallel-in to Parallel-out Shift Register. This type of shift register also acts as a temporary storage device or as a time delay device similar to the SISO configuration above. The data is presented in a parallel format to the parallel input

pins PA to PD and then transferred together directly to their respective output pins QA to QD by the same clock pulse. Then one clock pulse loads and unloads the register. This arrangement for parallel loading and unloading is shown below.

4-bit Parallel-in to Parallel-out Shift Register

The PIPO shift register is the simplest of the four configurations as it has only three connections, the parallel input (PI) which determines what enters the flip-flop, the parallel output (PO) and the sequencing clock signal (Clk).

Similar to the Serial-in to Serial-out shift register, this type of register also acts as a temporary storage device or as a time delay device, with the amount of time delay being varied by the frequency of the clock pulses. Also, in this type of register there are no interconnections between the individual flip-flops since no serial shifting of the data is required.

Universal Shift Register

Today, there are many high speed bi-directional “universal” type Shift Registers available such as the TTL 74LS194, 74LS195 or the CMOS 4035 which are available as 4-bit multi-function devices that can be used in either serial-to-serial, left shifting, right shifting, serial-to-parallel, parallel-to-serial, or as a parallel-to-parallel multifunction data register, hence their name “Universal”.

These universal shift registers can perform any combination of parallel and serial input to output operations but require additional inputs to specify desired function and to pre-load and reset the device. A commonly used universal shift register is the TTL 74LS194 as shown below.

4- bit Universal Shift Register 74LS194

Universal shift registers are very useful digital devices. They can be configured to respond to operations that require some form of temporary memory storage or for the delay of information such as the SISO or PIPO configuration modes or transfer data from one point to another in either a serial or parallel format. Universal shift registers are frequently used in arithmetic operations to shift data to the left or right for multiplication or division.

Shift Register Summary

  • A simple Shift Register can be made using only D-type flip-Flops, one flip-Flop for each data bit.
    • The output from each flip-Flop is connected to the D input of the flip-flop at its right.
    • Shift registers hold the data in their memory which is moved or “shifted” to their required positions on each clock pulse.
    • Each clock pulse shifts the contents of the register one bit position to either the left or the right.
    • The data bits can be loaded one bit at a time in a series input (SI) configuration or be loaded simultaneously in a parallel configuration (PI).
    • Data may be removed from the register one bit at a time for a series output (SO) or removed all at the same time from a parallel output (PO).
    • One application of shift registers is in the conversion of data between serial and parallel, or parallel to serial.
    • Shift registers are identified individually as SIPO, SISO, PISO, PIPO, or as a Universal

Shift Register with all the functions combined within a single device.


Semiconductor Memory

Semiconductor memory is used in any electronics assembly that uses computer processing technology. Semiconductor memory is the essential electronics component needed for any computer based PCB assembly.

In addition to this, memory cards have become common place items for temporarily storing data – everything from the portable flash memory cards used for transferring files, to semiconductor memory cards used in cameras, mobile phones and the like.

The use of semiconductor memory has grown, and the size of these memory cards has increased as the need for larger and larger amounts of storage is needed.

To meet the growing needs for semiconductor memory, there are many types and technologies that are used. As the demand grows new memory technologies are being introduced and the existing types and technologies are being further developed.

A variety of different memory technologies are available – each one suited to different applications.. Names such as ROM, RAM, EPROM, EEPROM, Flash memory, DRAM, SRAM, SDRAM, as well as F-RAM and MRAM are available, and new types are being developed to enable improved performance

There are two electronic data storage mediums that we can utilize, are magnetic or optical. Magnetic storage:

  • Stores data in magnetic form.
  • Affected by magnetic fields.
  • Has high storage capacity.
  • Doesn’t use a laser to read/write data.
  • Magnetic storage devices are; Hard disk , Floppy disk, Magnetic tape etc. Optical storage:
  • Stores data optically, uses laser to read/write.
  • Not affected by magnetic fields.
  • Has less storage than a hard disk.
  • Data accessing is high, compared to a floppy disc.
  • Optical storage devices are; CD-ROM,CD-R, CD-RW, DVD etc.

Semiconductor Memory Types

There are two main types or categories that can be used for semiconductor technology. These memory types or categories differentiate the memory to the way in which it operates:

  • RAM – Random Access Memory: As the names suggest, the RAM or random-access memory is a form of semiconductor memory technology that is used for reading and writing data in any order – in other words as it is required by the processor. It is used for such applications as the computer or processor memory where variables and other stored and are required on a random basis. Data is stored and read many times to and from this type of memory.
  • Random access memory is used in huge quantities in computer applications as current day computing and processing technology requires large amounts of memory to enable them to handle the memory hungry applications used today. Many types of RAM including SDRAM with its DDR3, DDR4, and soon DDR5 variants are used in huge quantities.
  • ROM – Read Only Memory: A ROM is a form of semiconductor memory technology used where the data is written once and then not changed. In view of this it is used where data needs to be stored permanently, even when the power is removed – many memory technologies lose the data once the power is removed.
  • As a result, this type of semiconductor memory technology is widely used for storing programs and data that must survive when a computer or processor is powered down. For example, the BIOS of a computer will be stored in ROM. As the name implies, data cannot be easily written to ROM. Depending on the technology used in the ROM, writing the data into the ROM initially may require special hardware. Although it is often possible to change the data, this gain requires special hardware to erase the data ready for new data to be written in.

In addition to this, new memory technologies are arriving on the scene and they are starting to make an impact in the market, enabling processor circuits to perform more effectively.

The different memory types or memory technologies are detailed below:

  • DRAM: Dynamic RAM is a form of random-access memory. DRAM uses a capacitor to store each bit of data, and the level of charge on each capacitor determines whether that bit is a logical 1 or 0.
  • However, these capacitors do not hold their charge indefinitely, and therefore the data needs to be refreshed periodically. As a result of this dynamic refreshing, it gains its name of being a dynamic RAM. DRAM is the form of semiconductor memory that is often used in equipment including personal computers and workstations where it forms the main RAM for the computer. The semiconductor devices are normally available as integrated circuits for use in PCB assembly in the form of surface mount devices or less frequently now as leaded components.
  • EEPROM: This is an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory. Data can be written to these semiconductor devices and it can be erased using an electrical voltage. This is typically applied to an erase pin on the chip. Like other types of PROMS, EEPROM retains the contents of the memory even when the power is turned off. Also like other types of ROM, EEPROM is not as fast as RAM.
  • EPROM: This is an Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory. These semiconductor devices can be programmed and then erased at a later time. This is normally achieved by exposing the semiconductor device itself to ultraviolet light. To enable this to happen there is a circular window in the package of the EPROM to enable the light to reach the silicon of the device. When the PROM is in use, this window is normally covered by a label, especially when the data may need to be preserved for an extended period.
  • The PROM stores its data as a charge on a capacitor. There is a charge storage capacitor for each cell and this can be read repeatedly as required. However, it is found that after many years the charge may leak away and the data may be lost.
  • Nevertheless, this type of semiconductor memory used to be widely used in applications where a form of ROM was required, but where the data needed to be changed periodically, as in a development environment, or where quantities were low.
  • Flash memory: Flash memory may be considered as a development of EEPROM technology. Data can be written to it and it can be erased, although only in blocks, but data can be read on an individual cell basis.
  • To erase and re-programme areas of the chip, programming voltages at levels that are available within electronic equipment are used. It is also non-volatile, and this makes it particularly useful. As a result Flash memory is widely used in many applications including USB memory sticks, compact Flash memory cards, SD memory cards and also now solid state hard drives for computers and many other applications.
  • PROM: This stands for Programmable Read Only Memory. It is a semiconductor memory which can only have data written to it once – the data written to it is permanent. These memories are bought in a blank format and they are programmed using a special PROM programmer.
  • Typically a PROM will consist of an array of fuse able links some of which are “blown” during the programming process to provide the required data pattern.
  • SDRAM: Synchronous DRAM. This form of semiconductor memory can run at faster speeds than conventional DRAM. It is synchronized to the clock of the processor and is capable of keeping two sets of memory addresses open simultaneously. By transferring data alternately from one set of addresses, and then the other, SDRAM cuts down on the delays associated with non-synchronous RAM, which must close one address bank before opening the next.
  • Within the SDRAM family there are several types of memory technologies that are seen. These are referred to by the letters DDR – Double Data Rate. DDR4 is currently the latest technology, but this is soon to be followed by DDR5 which will offer some significant improvements in performance.
  • RAM: Static Random Access Memory. This form of semiconductor memory gains its name from the fact that, unlike DRAM, the data does not need to be refreshed dynamically.

These semiconductor devices are able to support faster read and write times than DRAM (typically 10 ns against 60 ns for DRAM), and in addition its cycle time is much shorter because it does not need to pause between accesses. However, they consume more power, they are less dense and more expensive than DRAM. As a result of this SRAM is normally used for caches, while DRAM is used as the main semiconductor memory technology.

Semiconductor memory technology is developing at a fast rate to meet the ever-growing needs of the electronics industry. Not only are the existing technologies themselves being developed, but considerable amounts of research are being invested in new types of semiconductor memory technology.

In terms of the memory technologies currently in use, SDRAM versions like DDR4 are being further developed to provide DDR5 which will offer significant performance improvements. In time, DDR5 will be developed to provide the next generation of SDRAM.

Other forms of memory are seen around the home in the form of USB memory sticks, Compact Flash, CF cards or SD memory cards for cameras and other applications as well as solid state hard drives for computers.

The semiconductor devices are available in a wide range of formats to meet the differing PCB assembly and other needs.

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