Register transfer level is the abstraction level at which computer chips are mostly designed.
The only two truly relevant RTL languages as of 2020 are: Verilog and VHDL. Everything else compiles to those, because that's all that EDA vendors support.
Much like a C compiler abstracts away the CPU assembly to:
  • increase portability across ISAs
  • do optimizations that programmers can't feasibly do without going crazy
Compilers for RTL languages such as Verilog and VHDL abstract away the details of the specific semiconductor technology used for those exact same reasons.
The compilers essentially compile the RTL languages into a standard cell library.
Examples of companies that work at this level include:
In the past, most computer designers would have their own fabs.
But once designs started getting very complicated, it started to make sense to separate concerns between designers and fabs.
What this means is that design companies would primarily write register transfer level, then use electronic design automation tools to get a final manufacturable chip, and then send that to the fab.
It is in this point of time that TSMC came along, and benefied and helped establish this trend.
The term "Fabless" could in theory refer to other areas of industry besides the semiconductor industry, but it is mostly used in that context.
Examples under verilog, more details at Verilator.
Verilog simulator that transpiles to C++.
One very good thing about this is that it makes it easy to create test cases directly in C++. You just supply inputs and clock the simulation directly in a C++ loop, then read outputs and assert them with assert(). And you can inspect variables by printing them or with GDB. This is infinitely more convenient than doing these IO-type tasks in Verilog itself.
Some simulation examples under verilog.
First install Verilator. On Ubuntu:
sudo apt install verilator
Tested on Verilator 4.038, Ubuntu 22.04.
Run all examples, which have assertions in them:
cd verilator
make run
File structure is for example:
Example list:
The example under verilog/interactive showcases how to create a simple interactive visual Verilog example using Verilator and SDL.
You could e.g. expand such an example to create a simple (or complex) video game for example if you were insane enough. But please don't waste your time doing that, Ciro Santilli begs you.
Usage: install dependencies:
sudo apt install libsdl2-dev verilator
then run as either:
make run RUN=and2
make run RUN=move
Tested on Verilator 4.038, Ubuntu 22.04.
In those examples, the more interesting application specific logic is delegated to Verilog (e.g.: move game character on map), while boring timing and display matters can be handled by SDL and C++.
Examples under vhdl, more details at: GHDL.
Examples under vhdl.
First install GHDL. On Ubuntu:
sudo apt install verilator
Tested on Verilator 1.0.0, Ubuntu 22.04.
Run all examples, which have assertions in them:
cd vhdl

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