Key Takeaways

  • FPGAs can be programmed using various hardware description languages (HDLs).

  • VHDL (Very High-Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language) is a popular HDL designed specifically for digital circuit design.

  • Verilog is another widely used HDL with a C-like syntax.

  • SystemVerilog is a more advanced HDL that extends both VHDL and Verilog.

  • Some FPGAs support proprietary HDLs, enabling specialized capabilities.

  • Choosing the right HDL depends on factors such as design complexity, team experience, and available tools.

    What Language is FPGA Coded?

    Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are reconfigurable hardware devices that offer flexible logic and high performance for various digital system applications. To program these devices, engineers use specialized programming languages known as hardware description languages (HDLs).


    Very High-Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language (VHDL) is a popular HDL specifically designed for digital circuit design. It is IEEE-standardized and widely adopted in the industry, known for its strong type system, concurrency support, and dataflow modeling capabilities.

    • Pros:

      • Robust type system ensures design integrity.

      • Concurrency support enables efficient modeling of parallel systems.

      • Industry-wide acceptance and established ecosystem.

      • Cons:

        • Steeper learning curve compared to other HDLs.

        • Verbose syntax can lead to longer development times.


          Verilog is another widely used HDL with a C-like syntax. It is known for its simplicity, ease of learning, and support for behavioral and structural modeling styles.

          • Pros:

        • Intuitive C-like syntax makes it beginner-friendly.

        • Supports both behavioral and structural modeling approaches.

        • Extensive library of pre-built modules for rapid development.

        • Cons:

        • Weaker type system can introduce errors.

        • Lack of concurrency support can limit design efficiency.


          SystemVerilog is a more advanced HDL that extends both VHDL and Verilog. It combines the strengths of both languages, providing a comprehensive and powerful platform for digital design.

          • Pros:

        • Combines the best features of VHDL and Verilog.

        • Supports both structural and behavioral modeling.

        • Industry-leading verification and debug capabilities.

        • Cons:

        • Complex language with a higher learning curve.

        • Limited tool support compared to VHDL and Verilog.

          Proprietary HDLs

          Certain FPGA manufacturers offer proprietary HDLs that enable specialized capabilities. For example:

          • Xilinx: Xilinx FPGA Platform Development Kit (XDK) with proprietary IP Integrator and Vivado HLS.

          • Altera: OpenCL and OpenCL C for Altera FPGAs.

          • Lattice: Lattice Radiant Software with proprietary ActiveHDL and ispLEVER.

            Choosing the Right HDL

            The choice of HDL for FPGA programming depends on various factors, including:

            • Design complexity: VHDL or SystemVerilog may be better suited for complex designs.

            • Team experience: Verilog may be preferred for teams with a C/C++ programming background.

            • Available tools: Tool support and ecosystem availability can influence HDL selection.

              By understanding the capabilities and limitations of each HDL, engineers can effectively choose the best language for their specific FPGA programming needs.

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