2.2. Example: Multiply and Accumulate

2.2.1. Combinatorial MAC

With Clash installed, it is now possible to begin creating hardware designs. To give a brief overview of Clash, we will define a simple multiply-and-accumulate circuit. Make a new file called MAC.hs, and enter the following preamble:

module MAC where

import Clash.Prelude
import Clash.Explicit.Testbench

This declares the module and imports some useful modules from the Clash standard library. The standard library contains necessary functions and data types for writing circuit descriptions. As with Haskell, module identifiers in Clash must always start with a capital letter and correspond to the name of the file.

The logic of our circuit is expressed as a function which takes an accumulator and two extra inputs, and outputs the new value of the accumulator – which is the old value plus the product of the two other inputs.

mac :: (Num a) => a -> (a, a) -> a
mac acc (x, y) = acc + x * y

The type of the function is given after the ::, and says that the type a is some numeric type (e.g. Int, Signed 8, Double), the first argument is a number, the second value is a pair of numbers, and the result is a number.

2.2.2. Synchronous MAC

By adding another output parameter to this function, with the previous value of the accumulator, we can define the function as a Mealy machine. This allows us to use our combinatorial definition of mac to create a synchronous circuit (which we call macS).

mac :: (Num a) => a -> (a, a) -> (a, a)
mac acc (x, y) = (acc + x * y, acc)

macS :: (HiddenClockResetEnable dom, Num a, NFDataX a) => Signal dom (a, a) -> Signal dom a
macS = mealy mac 0

The input and output of macS are values of the Signal type. This type represents synchronous values (functions without signals are combinatorial). There is also an additional dom type, for synthesis domain, and a constraint HiddenClockResetEnable – which says the synthesis domain has a clock, reset and enable line. These are implicit, although they can be exposed using the exposeClockResetEnable funcion.

2.2.3. HDL Generation and Testing

To generate HDL from a synchronous circuit, a function needs to be marked as a topEntity. The simplest way to achieve this is to create a function with this name, as Clash will use this definition automatically (similar to how main is a special function in other languages).

  :: Clock System
  -> Reset System
  -> Enable System
  -> Signal System (Int, Int)
  -> Signal System Int
topEntity = exposeClockResetEnable macS

It is now possible to generate HDL for this circuit description, by running either clash --HDL from the command line, or running :HDL in clashi (where HDL is either vhdl, verilog or systemverilog). This will generate the HDL in a subdirectory named after the HDL being output.


Any function used to generate HDL from must have a monomorphic type. This means there can be no type variables in the type signature (i.e. for the circuit defined so far you need to specify both dom and a.

We can test that this circuit works as expected by defining a test bench. This allows an input to be used and the actual output to be compared against an expected output.

testBench :: Signal System Bool
testBench = done
  testInput    = stimuliGenerator clk rst ((1,1) :> (2,2) :> (3,3) :> (4,4))
  expectOutput = outputVerifier' clk rst (0 :> 1 :> 5 :> 14 :> 30 :> 46 :> 62)
  done         = expectOutput (topEntity clk rst en testInput)
  en           = enableGen
  clk          = tbSystemClockGen (fmap not done)
  rst          = systemResetGen

From clashi it is possible to sample this test bench, using the sampleN function, which takes in the number of samples to draw and the signal which generates samples.

>>> sampleN 8 testBench
[False, False, False, False, False, False, False, False]