Two Free VHDL Books


If you installed Vivado WebPACK, the free version of Xilinx FPGA design tools, you are ready now to start creating your first hardware design. There are at least three different ways to program a Xilinx FPGA today, using a hardware description language like VHDL or Verilog/SystemVerilog, using Vivado HLS using C/C++ and Vivado SystemGenerator or ModelComposer which requires Matlab and Simulink. Each design flow has advantages and disadvantages and the third one is not free.


HDL languages like VHDL and Verilog are mature design languages, FPGA design in the last 20 years has been done more or less entirely using HDL flows. HLS is a much more recent design flow, it provides a higher abstraction level and faster simulation times but lower performance in terms of speed and device utilization.


We will start for now by using VHDL. In the 90s we had a fierce HDL language war, hardware designers debating endlessly which one is better, VHDL or Verilog? It turned out that both sides were right and the best tool is the one you know how to use. Today's HDL simulation and synthesis tools let you mix and match the two HDL languages and you can use other people's code in your design even if it is not your favorite HDL dialect.


This will not be a VHDL 101 style course, I will assume that you have at least a basic level knowledge of the language. If that's not the case, in the same spirit of free everything I highly recommend Peter Ashenden's 1990 "The VDHL Cookbook" - old but good, it's the book I used to learn VHDL:


Another good resource is "Free Range VHDL, the no-frills guide to writing powerful code for your digital implementations" by Fabrizio Tappero, Bryan Mealy. You can download a free PDF copy from here:


Finally, not a free book but a very useful one if you want to bring your VHDL coding skills into the 21st century "VHDL 2008: Just the New Stuff" by the same Peter Ashenden and Jim Lewis, a well known VHDL expert:


In the next few posts I will talk about VHDL coding styles and how to create efficient and high speed FPGA designs, how to write generic and reusable code, VHDL-93 vs VHDL-2008 and other similar subject matters.