3.1 Background Information

Seven segment displays are used to display numbers in many electronic devices, such as alarm clocks, VCRs, microwaves, and many more. They are a popular choice because they are cheap, easy to read, and easy to program. 

In simple seven-segment displays like the one used in this lab, each segment is controlled individually, and only one digit is displayed at any given time. In this section only one digit will be used, so this limitation will not be a problem, but all four digits will be used in future sections, which will require some extra logic to cycle through the digits.

A digital logic decoder is a circuit that converts coded inputs into coded outputs. A seven-segment decoder is a simple example of a "4-to-7 decoder", taking a 4-bit binary number in and outputting the signals to control each of the 7 segments. Read through Example 2.10 from the course textbook (Page 79) for an example of a seven-segment decoder implementation.

3.2 Section Overview

Objective: Design and implement a decoder on the FPGA to convert a 4-bit binary number inputted using the switches into a single digit of hexadecimal on the seven-segment display.

  1. Create a block diagram for your design.
  2. Fill out Figure 3.2, which shows how each number 0-F will be displayed on the seven-segment display.
  3. Fill out Table 3.1, the functional truth table for the seven-segment decoder.
  4. Create seven Karnaugh Maps (K-Maps), one for each segment, to minimize the logic for each segment using the sum-of-products canonical form.
  5. Implement the minimized boolean logic in a spreadsheet.
  6. Simulate the design of your seven-segment decoder.
  7. Program and test hardware.

3.3 Learning Objectives

In this section, the following new items will be covered:

  1. Using Karnaugh Maps to create minimized boolean logic equations corresponding to a functional truth table.
  2. Translating boolean logic from equations to logic gates.

3.4 Materials

  1. Quartus Prime Lite Edition V. 18.0
  2. DE10-Lite kit with MAX10 10M50DAF484C7G FPGA
  3. USB to USB-B cable

3.5 Procedure

There are 6 steps to digital logic design:

Design Process Figure 3.1: Use this process for designing the seven segment display.

  1. Design: The context of the design is established in this step. The context involves defining the inputs, desired outputs, and all the logic required in-between. In this step, all the minimizations and layout are planned for the design entry process. While this step is not always the longest, it should involve the most thought and effort. This typically requires a complete block diagram showing all the logic blocks and the connections between them, often with written explanations of specific functions. 
  2. Design Entry: The actual drafting of the digital logic design occurs in this step, translating the design from block diagrams and descriptions into the software. This can be accomplished directly by writing HDL code, or graphically by drawing a schematic that a software tool can convert into HDL code. 
  3. Design Simulation: Before committing to hardware, this step tests the design in a controlled computer simulation. If the design does not function as specified in the ”Design” step, it is revised. 
  4. Synthesize and Map Design: When the design simulates correctly, the HDL and schematic source files are synthesized into a design file that can be written to the FPGA. This includes assigning the inputs and outputs of the design to IO pins. 
  5. Program Hardware: After the design file is created, it is used to configure the FPGA. Quartus Prime sends a bit stream over the USB-B cable to configure the DE10-Lite FPGA. 
  6. Test Hardware: Verify hardware operation once the FPGA has been programmed. The FPGA should operate exactly as the design predicted, which was verified by the simulation. Synthesis problems, timing violations, or incorrect assumptions about the hardware can require the designer to return to the ”Design” step.

3.6 Design

Figure 3.2 shows all of the different outputs that the seven segment decoder should produce. Shade in the segments that should be on for each input, 0-F.

7Seg Chart Figure 3.2: Displaying hexadecimal numbers on a seven-segment display

3.6.1 Make a block diagram

  1. Create a Block Diagram, see section 1.5.2 for reference.  
  2. Add all connections and Pin Names.


3.6.2 Make a functional truth table

Use the shading in Figure 3.2 and the diagram in Figure 3.3 to fill in the functional truth table below.

7Seg Segments

Figure 3.3: Seven-segment display segments labeled


The seven-segment display is active-LOW, meaning that sending a 0 to a segment turns it ON, and sending a 1 to a segment turns it OFF!

Input (Hexadecimal) Input (4-bit Binary) SegA SegB SegC SegD SegE SegF SegG
0 0000              
1 0001              
2 0010              
3 0011              
4 0100              
5 0101              
6 0110              
7 0111              
8 1000              
9 1001              
a 1010              
b 1011              
c 1100              
d 1101              
e 1110              
f 1111              

Table 3.1: Seven-segment decoder functional truth table


Make sure to double check the above table for accuracy. Errors this early in the design can lead to a lengthy debugging process.

3.6.3 Minimize the logic

  1. Create seven K-Maps, one for each segment.
  2. Determine the sum-of-products minimized boolean equations for each segment using the K-Maps.

3.7 Design Entry

Enter the logic gates corresponding to each minimzed boolean logic equation determined in Section 3.6.3 into a schematic. Enter the design using the same process as in Section 1.6, and be sure to use good design practices to keep the schematic neat!

3.8 Design Simulation

Simulation is done with modlesim in this course. See the links of the main page of the lab website for information on the software. 

To genereate the Verilog Hardware Description Language file for use in modelsim, go to File -> create/update -> create HDL Design File for current file -> Verilog

Find and open the .v file in Modelsim and simulate your design. 

3.9 Synthesize and Map Design

Synthesize your design and assign pins to your inputs and outputs using the same process as in Section 1.8.

3.10 Program Hardware

Program the DE10-Lite using the same process as in Section 1.9.

3.11 Test Hardware

Test to see if the switches cause the correct outputs on the seven segment display.

3.12 Checkoff

  • Figure 3.2 filled out
  • Table 3.1 filled out
  • A K-Map and minimized boolean logic equation for each segment
  • Complete schematic for the seven-segment decoder
  • Simulation matches Table 3.1
  • Hardware output matches simulation results

3.13 Study Questions

The study questions go at the end of the Lab Report

  1. When is a simulation necessary? Was it useful for this section? 

3.14 Challenge - Extra Credit

Display the result of the adder from Section 2 onto the seven-segment display.