Counters | Electronic counters | Synchronous counter | Decade counter | Electronics4you |

Counters

In digital logic and computing, a counter is a device which stores (and sometimes displays) the number of times a particular event or process has occurred, often in relationship to a clock signal.

Electronic counters

in electronics, counters can be implemented quite easily using register-type circuits such as the flip-flop, and a wide variety of classifications exist:

  • Asynchronous (ripple) counter – changing state bits are used as clocks to subsequent state flip-flops
  • Synchronous counter – all state bits change under control of a single clock
  • Decade counter – counts through ten states per stage
  • Up/down counter – counts both up and down, under command of a control input
  • Ring counter – formed by a shift register with feedback connection in a ring
  • Johnson counter – a twisted ring counter
  • Cascaded counter
  • modulus counter.

Each is useful for different applications. Usually, counter circuits are digital in nature, and count in natural binary. Many types of counter circuits are available as digital building blocks, for example a number of chips in the 4000 series implement different counters.

Occasionally there are advantages to using a counting sequence other than the natural binary sequence—such as the binary coded decimal counter, a linear feedback shift register counter, or a Gray-code counter.

Counters are useful for digital clocks and timers, and in oven timers, VCR clocks, etc.

An asynchronous (ripple) counter is a single d-type flip-flop, with its J (data) input fed from its own inverted output. This circuit can store one bit, and hence can count from zero to one before it overflows (starts over from 0). This counter will increment once for every clock cycle and takes two clock cycles to overflow, so every cycle it will alternate between a transition from 0 to 1 and a transition from 1 to 0. Notice that this creates a new clock with a 50% duty cycle at exactly half the frequency of the input clock. If this output is then used as the clock signal for a similarly arranged D flip-flop (remembering to invert the output to the input), one will get another 1 bit counter that counts half as fast. Putting them together yields a two-bit counter:

Synchronous counter

In synchronous counters, the clock inputs of all the flip-flops are connected together and are triggered by the input pulses. Thus, all the flip-flops change state simultaneously (in parallel). The circuit below is a 4-bit synchronous counter. The J and K inputs of FF0 are connected to HIGH. FF1 has its J and K inputs connected to the output of FF0, and the J and K inputs of FF2 are connected to the output of an AND gate that is fed by the outputs of FF0 and FF1. A simple way of implementing the logic for each bit of an ascending counter (which is what is depicted in the image to the right) is for each bit to toggle when all of the less significant bits are at a logic high state. For example, bit 1 toggles when bit 0 is logic high; bit 2 toggles when both bit 1 and bit 0 are logic high; bit 3 toggles when bit 2, bit 1 and bit 0 are all high; and so on.

Synchronous counters can also be implemented with hardware finite state machines, which are more complex but allow for smoother, more stable transitions.

Hardware-based counters are of this type.A simple way of implementing the logic for each bit of an ascending counter (which is what is depicted in the image to the right) is for each bit to toggle when all of the less significant bits are at a logic high state

Decade counter

A decade counter is one that counts in decimal digits, rather than binary. A decade counter may have each digit binary encoded (that is, it may count in binary-coded decimal, as the 7490 integrated circuit did) or other binary encodings. "A decade counter is a binary counter that is designed to count to 1010b (decimal 10). An ordinary four-stage counter can be easily modified to a decade counter by adding a NAND gate as in the schematic to the right. Notice that FF2 and FF4 provide the inputs to the NAND gate. The NAND gate outputs are connected to the CLR input of each of the FFs." A decade counter is one that counts in decimal digits, rather than binary. It counts from 0 to 9 and then resets to zero. The counter output can be set to zero by pulsing the reset line low. The count then increments on each clock pulse until it reaches 1001 (decimal 9). When it increments to 1010 (decimal 10) both inputs of the NAND gate go high. The result is that the NAND output goes low, and resets the counter to zero. D going low can be a CARRY OUT signal, indicating that there has been a count of ten.

 

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