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Bolt on beats bugs

Overcoming the adverse effects of abstraction. By Peter Davy.

Whilst design techniques are tending towards the use of ever higher levels of abstraction in order to cope with complexity, there is an undesirable side effect: the designer gets further away from the code. This can make debug more difficult, as the engineer has a less intimate knowledge of the design. The effect has become acute since high level design languages (hdl) have substantially replaced schematics.

However, a relatively inexpensive tool which can be bolted onto an existing simulator addresses this problem. HDL simulators are commonplace and provide a virtual environment in which to test and debug hdl based designs; either interactively or with a testbench. For interactive debugging, simulation results are usually viewed in one of a collection of windows, the most common of which is probably a graphical waveform window. Side by side will be a window displaying the active hdl code. But with thousands of lines of hdl representing many concurrent processes, visualising a design is not straightforward and hence debugging can be confusing.

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Author
Graham Pitcher

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