Category: asic

Getting Started with Magic VLSI

Magic VLSI – or just Magic – is a free and open source VLSI layout software. Simply put Magic allows you to draw the mask layers used in a semiconductor facrication process. The Magic software is another “Berkeley Child” (like BSD and others) and first came into existence in the 1980s. Magic is still under active development as of late 2019.

Some Linux distributions offer a pre-build package for Magic from their package repository. Most often these packages are outdated and therefor it is best to build Magic from the sources.

Start by pulling the latest release from the official project page.
$> git clone git://
$> cd magic

$> git checkout magic-8.2

I am building Magic in a WSL Ubuntu 18.04 while writing this guide, so installing some additional packages is required before continuing. This step is subject to the build machine and may vary.
$> sudo apt install csh
$> sudo apt install libglu1-mesa-dev freeglut3-dev mesa-common-dev
$> sudo apt install tk tk-dev
$> sudo apt install libcairo2 libcairo2-dev

Now let’s continue to build Magic. I like to install software to /opt so it’s not burried deep inside the file tree and is available to all users on my machine (which is just me). The installation folder is set by the --prefix option.
$> ./configure --prefix=/opt/magic-8.2
If all the dependencies above where installed you should see a fivefold yes after the configure script has completed.

With that out of the way the build process can be launched as usual. The installation step may require to change the permissions on the installation folder, so that the current user has write access to the installation path.
$> make
$> make install

That’s it! Let’s see if it worked.
$> cd /opt/magic-8.2/bin
$> ./magic &

Success! Magic 8.2 has been launched.

In order to have something more than a gray box to look at let’s load the layout of an example gate from my Magic VLSI examples repo.

“Nice colors!” “Oh NAND you.”

That’s it for now. More examples on how to get started with Magic may follow.
P.S.: Before I forget to mention it, Magic requires a mouse with 3 buttons to work as intended. No kidding!


Interesting Read about IP-XACT

In case you are interested in FPGA/ASIC design and/or HDL coding you may find this blog entry about IP-XACT worthy of reading.

ASIC Design Tutorials And Why They’re Rare

Most information about ASIC technologies and semiconductor processes are not public and only supplied under strict NDAs. Therefor only very few useful tutorials about ASIC design and layout exist. Though few in number they do exist. Here are a few noteworthy ones. I did not read through them completely but only briefly skipped through them and thought they looked promising at first glance.*/Designing%20Analog%20Chips

VLSI tools in 500 LOC or Longing for Attention

My VLSI tools take a chip from conception through testing. Perhaps 500 lines of source code. Cadence, Mentor Graphics do the same, more or less. With how much source/object code?

– Chuck Moore, the inventor of Forth –

Now, I’ve seen chip design tools by the likes of Cadence and Mentor Graphics. Astronomically costly licenses. Geological run times. And nobody quite knows what they do.

– –

Testbench != Simulation

There is a difference between testbench files and simulation files:
Testbench files are independent of the simulator and comparable tools. They include testbench configuration files, test case descriptions or stimuli and golden reference output files.

Simulation files are setup and command files for a simulator or similar vendor tool. Related configuration files include waveform settings and simulation scripts.

A project’s folder structure should also draw this distinction to keep simulator/vendor independent files separate. Log files and results should therefor be put in an output folder alongside the testbench files.