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State Diagram Design - a Method

Last updated: 01-02-09

The design of State Machines the most creative process you might experience - compared with the task of software design.
When it comes to deriving the Boolean equations its more like "turning the crank" (Wakerly 4ed page 554)

State Diagrams and State Machines


Almost all digital electronic of importance based at the principle of the Synchronous State Machine - SSM or Final State Machine Machine - FSM.

The State Memory enables the FSM to remember what happened in the past - The output from the F/F's referred as Current state.

The Next State Logic (pure combinatorial) decide what should happens next - This decision done by looking at Inputs and the Current state. The output from the Next State Logic called Next State (of course) and is just waiting for the next rising edge clock pulse to become a new Current state.

The Current state could be used directly as output (Output coded states) but could be transformed through combinatorial logic.


In order to document the functionality of a FSM / SSM will State Diagrams often be the best choice. Each state represented by a circle (or ellipse) and the graphics describe the possible states and the transitions between.

Note! The idea behind states and State Diagrams not only applies digital hardware - You might consider using states while writing software as well.  In fact can most of our daily activities be described with State Diagrams (But don't try it) 


State Machine with Moore output


If the Output from a State Machine only depends at the Current state is it a Moore output - Hence will all changes at the output be synchronous with the Clock pulses.


State Machine with Mealy output


If the Output from a State Machine depends at both the Current state and the inputs is it a Mealy output - Hence could some changes at the output follow changes at input signal. Please note! if you got a State Machine with say 100 states and the 99 states got output that NOT affected by input changes (Moore output) but i a single state a Mealy type, then the whole State Machine a Mealy State Machine.

Asynchronous changes inside a Synchronous systems calls for problems (read! Metastability and Hazards), but nevertheless could a Mealy output be the best solution.

State Machine with Clocked Mealy output (pipelined)

In order to synchronize a Mealy output could it be necessary to add an extra F/F, which solves the problem but also add extra delay.


3-bit Parity generator - Combinatorial logic


Parity often used in connection with serial communication and storage. If data given at parallel form would a combinatorial design be the most natural and best solution.

A parity generator implemented with "pure" AND-OR logic will normally be a costly solution.
Whenever your Carnaugh-map looks like a chessboard should you consider using XOR gates, and if you can accept a modular design could the cost of logic gates be minimized.


Consider your about to implement a 8-bit Parity generator with "pure" - NAND-NAND logic (one level only). How many gates - with how many inputs do you need (forget the inverters for the inputs) ?

Answer - hold down the left mouse button and drag:

8-bit = 256 combinations and half of then must produce an output = 1, hence must we have 128 NAND gates with 8 inputs and finally one NAND gate with 128 inputs.

A similar modular design with XOR gates will only cost 7 XOR gates with 2 inputs each.

3-bit Parity generator - Sequential logic (State Machine)


If data given as a stream of bits (serial form) could the best solution for a Parity generator be a Synchronous State Machine.
Please note that the serial stream "stuffed" with an empty bit space
X3 - The SSM will then fill in the Parity bit once generated


State Diagram for the sequential 3-bit parity generator ("lazy" solution)


One characteristic for a Final State Machine is a final number of states :-)

You could start a design by drawing a State Diagram like the one shown at the right, and - yes the number of states final, but the solution not optimal.

You could find methods for reducing the number of states at the net and in advanced textbooks.

BUT - hardware cheap nowadays and hence should you put the effort in making a State Diagram which easy to understand, maintain and implement instead of saving a F/F or a gate somewhere. 

State Diagram design - choosing a strategy

The rules below not a solution to every problem you might face - drawing State Diagrams as every problem call for its own special solution:

  1.  Draw an overview figure - How many input / outputs needed and would they be Mealy or Moore types.

  2. All State Machines need a state to start - this might as well be an IDLE state. Draw the state and give it a name - say A if you can't find any better.

  3. Decide the Goal or goals for your State Diagram /SSM.
    In this case will it be a
    Parity bit equal 1 or 0.

State Diagram design - getting started
  1. Decide how many clock pulses (minimum) it will take to reach your goals. You might draw empty state circles to indicate the paths.
State Diagram design - the strait paths
  1. This one the most important - If you about to create a State Diagram which should recognize some kind of code - then you should start expecting that this combination of bit arrives just like you wants them.

    In case of the Parity generator should you choose the combinations 000 and 001 which lead to
    Parity 0 and 1
State Diagram design - filling out the gaps
  1. For each state which still missing transitions lines or where the transitions might be "undefined" due to ambiguous conditions must you consider what to do next.

    First must you try "re-cycle" the states already defined.
    This surely the case here - as the
    Parity changes between 0 and 1 each time a new high value accepted as input.

    But in other - real life designs - must you properly add extra states in order to handle special cases.
  2. Fill out the State diagrams with the missing transitions and your done.

If your planning to use VHDL for the implementation and settles for enumerated state assignment your ready to go now.
The setup of your ISE, choice of Hardware CPLD / FPGA and the amount of state will either select a binary coding or a one hot style.

But just for the example - lets take the full Monty :-)

State Diagram design - State Coding

Why is One Hot so hot for a FPGA?

Lets consider a State Machine with 33 states - with a binary code style will you need 6 F/F's while a One Hot code style will cost you 33 F/Fs - how could this be an advantage !!!!

First must you realize that the amount of F/Fs available inside a FPGA quite high - how ever are the combinatorial resources short (if the number of required input above 4 - since a Look Up Table takes four in and give one out)

If you analyze State Diagrams will you find that's the number of transition arrows leading to a state seldom above 2 - meaning that the Next State logic for this state could have two inputs together with the two "hot bits" and still fit inside a LUT. If your instead insist of using a Binary code will you have to consider 2+6 bits for the Next State logic.


With 7 states, how few Flip/Flops needed to implement this State Machine?

Answer23 = 8 possible states - you need 3 F/Fs

How many possible combinations of state coding do you have?

Answer8! = 8*7*6*5*4*3*2*1 =  40320 combinations


Of all the combinations possible I do believe the chosen one also the best. Check the State Transitions Table at the right.

What's the idea behind this state coding?


In order to keep track of the number of X-bits arrived we surely need a counter - Hence is Q1 and Q0 coded as a 2-bit ditto.

The most significant bit holds the parity value at the give state.  


State Machine design - "Turning the Crank"


After a bit bit-manipulation, could the Boolean Equation for the Next State logic and the Output Logic be derived.
Big surprise - it seems we got what we asked for:
  •  A two-bit counter to keep track of the number of bits arriving.
  •  A circuit which generates a Serial Parity (please note the OR-gate - What's the purpose of this?) -
  •   Finally will the Mealy output come from a Multiplexer which either select the input X direct or the Parity bit.

If you where asked to create a 16-bit Serial Parity Generator, how would you solve this task?

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