Why “synchronous”?

  • The difference between asynchronous and synchronous counters.

In an asynchronous counter, an external event is used to directly SET or CLEAR a flip-flop when it occurs. In a synchronous counter however, the external event is used to produce a pulse that is synchronised with the internal clock. An example of an asynchronous counter is a ripple counter. Each flip-flop in the ripple counter is clocked by the output from the previous flip-flop. Only the first flip-flop is clocked by an external clock. Below is an example of a 4-bit ripple counter.

4_bit_asynchronous_counter

  • Dangers of asynchronous counters.

Although the asynchronous counter is easier to implement, it is more "dangerous" than the synchronous counter. In a complex system, there are many state changes on each clock edge, and some IC's (integrated circuits) respond faster than others. If an external event is allowed to affect a system whenever it occurs, a small percentage of the time it will occur near a clock transition, after some IC's have responded, but before others have. This intermingling of transitions often causes erroneous operations. What is worse, these problems are difficult to test for and difficult to foresee because of the random time difference between the events.

 

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