Little Bit of History

How it all started

Verilog  was started initially as a proprietory hardware modeling language by Gateway Design Automation Inc. around 1984.  It is rumored that the original language was designed by taking features from the most popular HDL  language of the time, called HiLo as well as from traditional computer language such as C. At that time, Verilog was not standardized and the language modified itself in almost all the revisions that came out within 1984 to 1990. 

But very soon, the designers of the language realized the need of integrating an API into the language. According to Yatin Trivedi, one of the foremost players in shaping the language, the need of an API came out first with the realization that it was impossible to simulate an entire system with the resources available those days with an interpretive language such as Verilog. So, PLI was born.

Initial days of PLI

Since,  it was a proprietary language, Verilog was not standardized. With almost every release of the Gateway's product, some features or others from the previous version of Verilog were either removed or modified.

The story of PLI was not any different either. The functions (only tf initially, then acc) were in constant state of modifications and, as somebody involved in the design of the language said later, it was a mess.

Gateway was acquired by Cadence

The time was late 1990.  Cadence Design System, whose primary product at that time included Thin film process simulator, decided to acquire Gateway Automation System.  Along with  other Gateway product, Cadence now became the owner of the Verilog language and  its PLI  mechanism as well.  

Verilog went public

In 1990, Cadence did something, which,  according to Joe Costello, the then CEO of Cadence, was termed as "suicidal attempt" by many - he made Verilog and its PLI mechanism a public domain property. This meant anybody could develop a Verilog simulator and could become a potential competitor of Cadence.

Open Verilog International was born

Soon it was realized, that if there were too many companies in the market for Verilog, potentially everybody would like to do what Gateway did so far - changing the language for their own benefit. This would defeat the main purpose of releasing the language to public domain. As a result Open Verilog International (OVI) was formed with representatives from all major hardware tool vendors  of the time. 

The primary task given to OVI was to standardize Verilog and PLI.  Two separate task forces looked into the Verilog language and the PLI part. The first drafts of the standards in both the cases  were  almost an exact replica  of the Cadence's  Verilog manual. 

IEEE Std. 1364-1995

In the meantime, the popularity of Verilog and PLI was rising exponentially.  Verilog as a HDL found more admirers than well-formed and federally funded VHDL.  It was only a matter of time before people in OVI  realized the need of a more universally accepted standard. Accordingly, the board of directors of OVI  requested IEEE to form a working committee for  establishing Verilog as an IEEE standard. The working committee 1364 was formed in mid 1993 and on October 14, 1993, it  had its first meeting. 

The standard,  which combined both the Verilog language syntax and the PLI in a single volume, was passed in May 1995 and now known as IEEE Std. 1364-1995. 

IEEE Std. 1364-2001

Around 1998, IEEE Std. Committee 1364 took the task of revising the standard. Initially expected in 1999, the standard eventually came out in 2001. Its official name was IEEE Std. 1364-2001, but it became more popular as v2k. V2k did not add any major item in terms of PLI. A strategic decision was made to make future changes/additions in the VPI section of the PLI. While this reduced the amount of work for the EDA companies requiring them to maintain only one revision of Verilog PLI, many existing applications are still in PLI 1.0 and if you are the owner of any such application, you should not be happy with this decision.

The SystemVerilog Saga

By 2001-2002, many new innovations came up in the field of HDLs. One interesting development came from (now defunct) Co-design Automation . It extended Verilog to form its proprietory language Superlog to include popular C-like data structures (such as, structures and unions), enumerated data types and a whole lot of other useful features.

From the perspective of PLI, Co-design dazzled everybody by introducing what it called C-Blend. C-Blend allowed direct embedding of C code inside Verilog and facility of calling functions of one language (say, C) from another language (Verilog, for example). This completely eliminated the need for a traditional PLI mechanism.

Around the same time, Synopsys developed somewhat similar DirectC. Co-design was later purchased by Synopsys. By that time, many of Superlog's features were donated to Accellera's new language development activity - termed as SystemVerilog .

SystemVerilog rapidly changed the landscape of HDLs. In quick succession, it introduced two major and one minor revisions. Many of C-Blend and DirectC's features are today part of SystemVerilog's Direct Programming Interface (DPI).


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