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Clock signal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Computer clock)

This article is about timing of electronic circuits. For setting clocks to the
correct time of day, see Time signal.

In electronicsand especially synchronousdigital circuits, a clock signalis a

particular type of signalthat oscillates between a high and a low state and is used
like a metronometo coordinate actions of digital circuits.

A clock signal is produced by a clock generator. Although more complex

arrangements are used, the most common clock signal is in the form of a square
wavewith a 50% duty cycle, usually with a fixed, constant frequency. Circuits
using the clock signal for synchronization may become active at either the rising
edge, falling edge, or, in the case of double data rate, both in the rising and in the
falling edges of the clock cycle.

Contents [hide]
1 Digital circuits
1.1 Single-phase clock
1.2 Two-phase clock
1.3 4-phase clock
1.4 Clock multiplier
1.5 Dynamic frequency change
2 Other circuits
3 Distribution
4 See also
5 References

Digital circuits [ edit ]

Most integrated circuits(ICs) of sufficient complexity use a clock signal in order to

synchronize different parts of the circuit, cycling at a rate slower than the worst-
case internal propagation delays. In some cases, more than one clock cycle is
required to perform a predictable action. As ICs become more complex, the
problem of supplying accurate and synchronized clocks to all the circuits
becomes increasingly difficult. The preeminent example of such complex chips is
the microprocessor, the central component of modern computers, which relies on
a clock from a crystal oscillator. The only exceptions are asynchronous
circuitssuch as asynchronous CPUs.

A clock signal might also be gated, that is, combined with a controlling signal that
enables or disables the clock signal for a certain part of a circuit. This technique
is often used to save power by effectively shutting down portions of a digital
circuit when they are not in use, but comes at a cost of increased complexity in
timing analysis.

Single-phase clock [ edit ]

Most modern synchronous circuitsuse only a "single phase clock" – in other

words, they transmit all clock signals on (effectively) 1 wire.

Two-phase clock [ edit ]

In synchronous circuits, a "two-phase clock" refers to clock signals distributed on

2 wires, each with non-overlapping pulses. Traditionally one wire is called "phase
1" or "φ1", the other wire carries the "phase 2" or "φ2" signal.[1][2][3][4]Because
the two phases are guaranteed non-overlapping, gated latchesrather than edge-
triggered flip-flopscan be used to store state informationso long as the inputs to
latches on one phase only depend on outputs from latches on the other phase.
Since a gated latch uses only four gates versus six gates for an edge-triggered
flip-flop, a two phase clock can lead to a design with a smaller overall gate count
but usually at some penalty in design difficulty and performance.

MOS ICs typically used dual clock signals (a two-phase clock) in the 1970s.
These were generated externally for both the 6800 and 8080
microprocessors.[5]The next generation of microprocessors incorporated the
clock generation on chip. The 8080 uses a 2 MHz clock but the processing
throughput is similar to the 1 MHz 6800. The 8080 requires more clock cycles to
execute a processor instruction. The 6800 has a minimum clock rate of 100 kHz
while the 8080 can be halted. Higher speed versions of both microprocessors
were released by 1976.[6]

The 6501requires an external 2-phase clock generator. The MOS Technology

6502uses the same 2-phase logic internally, but also includes a two-phase clock
generator on-chip, so it only needs a single phase clock input, simplifying system

4-phase clock [ edit ]

A "4-phase clock" has clock signals distributed on 4 wires (four-phase logic).[7]

In some early microprocessors such as the National SemiconductorIMP-16

family, a multi-phaseclock was used. In the case of the IMP-16, the clock had
four phases, each 90 degrees apart, in order to synchronize the operations of the
processor core and its peripherals.

The DEC WRL MultiTitan microprocessor uses a four phase clocking scheme.[8]

Some ICs use four-phase logic.

Intrinsity's Fast14 technology uses a multi-phase clock.

Most modern microprocessors and microcontrollersuse a single-phase clock,


Clock multiplier [ edit ]

Main article: clock multiplier

Many modern microcomputersuse a "clock multiplier" which multiplies a lower

frequency external clock to the appropriate clock rate of the microprocessor. This
allows the CPU to operate at a much higher frequency than the rest of the
computer, which affords performance gains in situations where the CPU does not
need to wait on an external factor (like memory or input/output).

Dynamic frequency change [ edit ]

The vast majority of digital devices do not require a clock at a fixed, constant
frequency. As long as the minimum and maximum clock periods are respected,
the time between clock edges can vary widely from one edge to the next and
back again. Such digital devices work just as well with a clock generator that
dynamically changes its frequency, such as spread-spectrum clock
generation, dynamic frequency scaling, PowerNow!, Cool'n'Quiet, SpeedStep,
etc. Devices that use static logic do not even have a maximum clock period; such
devices can be slowed down and paused indefinitely, then resumed at full clock
speed at any later time.

Other circuits [ edit ]

Some sensitive mixed-signal circuits, such as precision analog-to-digital

converters, use sine wavesrather than square waves as their clock signals,
because square waves contain high-frequency harmonicsthat can interfere with
the analog circuitry and cause noise. Such sine wave clocks are often differential
signals, because this type of signal has twice the slew rate, and therefore half the
timing uncertainty, of a single-ended signalwith the same voltage range.
Differential signals radiate less strongly than a single line. Alternatively, a single
line shielded by power and ground lines can be used.

In CMOS circuits, gate capacitances are charged and discharged continually. A

capacitor does not dissipate energy, but energy is wasted in the driving
transistors. In reversible computing, inductorscan be used to store this energy
and reduce the energy loss, but they tend to be quite large. Alternatively, using a
sine wave clock, CMOS transmission gatesand energy-saving techniques, the
power requirements can be reduced.[citation needed]

Distribution [ edit ]

The most effective way to get the clock signal to every part of a chip that needs it,
with the lowest skew, is a metal grid. In a large microprocessor, the power used
to drive the clock signal can be over 30% of the total power used by the entire
chip. The whole structure with the gates at the ends and all amplifiers in between
have to be loaded and unloaded every cycle.[9][10]To save energy, clock
gatingtemporarily shuts off part of the tree.

The clock distribution network(or clock tree, when this network forms a tree)
distributes the clock signal(s) from a common point to all the elements that need
it. Since this function is vital to the operation of a synchronous system, much
attention has been given to the characteristics of these clock signals and
the electrical networksused in their distribution. Clock signals are often regarded
as simple control signals; however, these signals have some very special
characteristics and attributes.

Clock signals are typically loaded with the greatest fanoutand operate at the
highest speeds of any signal within the synchronous system. Since the data
signals are provided with a temporal reference by the clock signals, the
clock waveformsmust be particularly clean and sharp. Furthermore, these clock
signals are particularly affected by technology scaling (see Moore's law), in that
long global interconnect lines become significantly more resistive as line
dimensions are decreased. This increased line resistance is one of the primary
reasons for the increasing significance of clock distribution on synchronous
performance. Finally, the control of any differences and uncertainty in the arrival
times of the clock signals can severely limit the maximum performance of the
entire system and create catastrophic race conditionsin which an incorrect data
signal may latch within a register.

Most synchronous digitalsystems consist of cascaded banks of

sequential registerswith combinational logicbetween each set of registers.
The functional requirementsof the digital system are satisfied by the logic stages.
Each logic stage introduces delay that affects timing performance, and the timing
performance of the digital design can be evaluated relative to the timing
requirements by a timing analysis. Often special consideration must be made to
meet the timing requirements. For example, the global performance and local
timing requirements may be satisfied by the careful insertion of pipeline
registersinto equally spaced time windows to satisfy critical worst-case timing
constraints. The proper design of the clock distribution network helps ensure that
critical timing requirements are satisfied and that no race conditions exist (see
also clock skew).

The delay components that make up a general synchronous system are

composed of the following three individual subsystems: the memory storage
elements, the logic elements, and the clocking circuitry and distribution network.
Novel structures are currently under development to ameliorate these issues and
provide effective solutions. Important areas of research include resonant clocking
techniques, on-chip optical interconnect, and local synchronization

See also [ edit ]

Clock rate
Electronic design automation
Design flow (EDA)
Integrated circuit design
Self-clocking signal
Four-phase logic
Bit-synchronous operation
Pulse-per-second signal
Clock domain crossing

References [ edit ]

1. ^[1] Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

2. ^Two-phase non-overlapping clock generator , Tams-www.informatik.uni-
hamburg.de, retrieved 2012-01-08
3. ^Concepts in Digital Imaging - Two Phase CCD Clocking , Micro.magnet.fsu.edu,
retrieved 2012-01-08
4. ^Cell cgf104: Two phase non-overlapping clock generator , Hpc.msstate.edu,
archived from the original on 2012-02-08, retrieved 2012-01-08
5. ^"How to drive a microprocessor" . Electronics. New York: McGraw-Hill. 49(8):
159. April 15, 1976.Motorola's Component Products Department sold hybrid ICs
that included a quartz oscillator. These IC produced the two-phase non-overlapping
waveforms the 6800 and 8080 required. Later Intel produced the 8224 clock
generator and Motorola produced the MC6875. The Intel 8085 and the Motorola
6802 include this circuitry on the microprocessor chip.
6. ^"Intel's Higher Speed 8080 μP" (PDF). Microcomputer Digest. Cupertino CA:
Microcomputer Associates. 2(3): 7. September 1975.
7. ^Concepts in digital imaging - Four Phase CCD Clocking , Micro.magnet.fsu.edu,
retrieved 2012-01-08
8. ^Norman P. Jouppi and Jeffrey Y. F. Tang. "A 20-MIPS Sustained 32-bit CMOS
Microprocessor with High Ratio of Sustained to Peak Performance" .
1989. CiteSeerx: p. 10.
9. ^Anand Lal Shimpi (2008), Intel's Atom Architecture: The Journey Begins
10. ^Paul V. Bolotoff (2007), Alpha: The history in facts and comments , "power
consumed by the clock subsystem of EV6 was about 32% of the total core power.
To compare, it was about 25% for EV56, about 37% for EV5 and about 40% for

Eby G. Friedman(Ed.), Clock Distribution Networks in VLSI Circuits and

Systems, ISBN 0-7803-1058-6, IEEE Press. 1995.
Eby G. Friedman, Clock Distribution Networks in Synchronous Digital
Integrated Circuits , Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 89, No. 5, pp. 665–692,
May 2001.
The ISPD 2010 clock-network synthesis contest organized by IBM Research
and Intel Research http://archive.sigda.org/ispd/contests/10/ispd10cns.html
D.-J. Lee, ``High-performance and Low-power Clock Network Synthesis in
the Presence of Variation, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan,
2011, http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~imarkov/pubs/diss/DJdiss.pdf
I. L. Markov, D.-J. Lee, ``Algorithmic Tuning of Clock Trees and Derived Non-
Tree Structures, in Proc. Int'l. Conf. Comp.-Aided Design (ICCAD)
2011, http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~imarkov/pubs/conf/iccad11-tuto.pdf
V. G. Oklobdzija, V. M. Stojanovic, D. M. Markovic, and N. M. Nedovic, Digital
System Clocking: High-Performance and Low-Power Aspects, ISBN 0-471-
27447-X, IEEE Press/Wiley-Interscience, 2003.
The power of RTL Clock-gatingby Mitch
Dale, http://www.chipdesignmag.com/display.php?articleId=915

Adapted from Eby Friedman 's column in the ACM SIGDA e-

newsletter by Igor Markov Eby G. Friedman
Original text is available
at https://web.archive.org/web/20100711135550/http://www.sigda.org/newsletter/