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VHDL (VHSIC-HDL, Very High-Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language) is a hardware description language used in electronic des...

Saturday 29 December 2012


Formal Definition

Constant is an object whose value cannot be changed once defined for the design. Constants may be explicitly declared or they may be sub-elements of explicitly declared constants, or interface constants. Constants declared in packages may also be deferred constants.

Simplified Syntax

constant constant_name : type := value;


A constant is an object whose value may never be changed during the simulation process.

The constant declaration contains one or more identifiers, a subtype indication and an expression which specifies the value of the constant declared in the particular statement. The identifiers specify names of the constants. Each name appearing in the identifier list creates a separate object.

The object type in the constant declaration can be of scalar or composite type and it can be constrained. A constant cannot be of the file or access type. If a constant is an array or a record then none of its elements can be of the file or access type.

The expression used in the constant declaration must refer to a value of the same type as specified for the constant (Example 1).

If a constant is declared an array other than string, bit_vector or std_logic_vector, then the value for the constant must be specified using aggregates (Example 2).

A constant declared in a package can be deferred, i.e. it can be declared without specifying its value, which is given later on, in the package body (Example 3).

Constants improve the clarity and readability of a project. Moreover, they simplify incorporating changes in the project. For example, if a design contains a bus with a fixed width, aconstant representing the number of bits in the bus can be used. When the width of the bus is to be changed, it is sufficient to alter the constant declaration only.

The visibility of constants depends on the place of their declaration. The constants defined in the package can be used by several design units. The constant declaration in the design entity is seen by all the statements of the architecture bodies of this entity. The constants defined in the declaration part of the design unit is seen in all bodies related to this design, including the process statement. The constant defined in the process can only be used in this process.


Example 1

type WeekDay is (Mon,Tue,Wed,Thu,Fri,Sat,Sun);
constant StartDay : WeekDay := Sat;
constant LogicalGND : Bit := '0';
constant BusWidth, QueueLength : Integer := 16;
constant CLKPeriod : Time := 15 ns;
constant MaxSimTime : Time := 200 * CLKPeriod;

Each of the six constants above is of a scalar type. Both BusWidth and QueueLength are expected to be integer numbers of the same value, therefore they were specified using one declaration. Note that you can either explicitly specify the constant's value or using an expression based on other constants (see the MaxSimTime constant).

Example 2

type NumericCodeType is array (7 downto 0) of Integer range 0 to 9;
constant EntryCode : NumericCodeType := (2,6,4,8,0,0,1,3);
constant DataBusReset: Std_Logic_Vector(7 downto 0) := "00000000";

Both constants are of complex types, but DataBusReset is of the Std_Logic_Vector, thus it can be assigned its value directly. EntryCode is also a one-dimensional array, but its elements are integers so the value for the constant must be specified using an aggregate numeric code type (2,6,4,8...).

Example 3

package Timing is
constant Reset : Std_Logic;
end package Timing;
package body Timing is
constant Reset: Std_Logic := '0';
end package body Timing;

Note that the Reset constant is declared in the package without a concrete value assigned to it because the complete declaration of this constant is given in the package body.

Important Notes

· By definition, a constant may not be assigned any values by the simulation process.

· Use constants as often as possible as they create more readable and maintainable code.

· Use constants to define data parameters and lookup tables, which may substitute function calls the simulation time of such lookups is significantly shorter than that of function calls.

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