AskDefine | Define clocking

Dictionary Definition

clocking n : the time taken to traverse a measured course; "it was a world record clocking"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of clock

Extensive Definition

In electronics and especially synchronous digital circuits, a clock signal is a signal used to coordinate the actions of two or more circuits. A clock signal oscillates between a high and a low state, normally with a 50% duty cycle, and is usually in the form of a square wave. Circuits using the clock signal for synchronization may become active at either the rising edge, falling edge, or both edges of the clock cycle; for example, DDR SDRAM is activated by both edges.

Digital circuits

Most integrated circuits (ICs) of sufficient complexity utilize a clock signal in order to synchronize different parts of the circuit and to account for propagation delays. As ICs become more complex, the problem of supplying accurate and synchronized clocks to all the circuits becomes increasingly difficult. The preeminent example of such complex chips is the microprocessor, the central component of modern computers, which relies on a clock from a crystal oscillator.
A clock signal might also be gated, that is, combined with a controlling signal that enables or disables the clock signal for a certain part of a circuit. This technique is often used to save power by effectively shutting down portions of a digital circuit when they are not in use.
In some early microprocessors such as the National Semiconductor IMP-16 family, a multi-phase clock was used. In the case of the IMP-16, the clock had four phases, each 90 degrees apart, in order to synchronize the operations of the processor core and its peripherals. Most modern microprocessors and microcontrollers use a single-phase clock, however.
Many modern microcomputers utilize a "clock multiplier" which multiplies a lower frequency external clock to the appropriate clock rate of the microprocessor. This allows the CPU to operate at a much higher frequency than the rest of the computer, which affords performance gains in situations where the CPU does not need to wait on an external factor (like memory or input/output).

Other circuits

Some sensitive mixed-signal circuits, such as precision analog-to-digital converters, use sine waves rather than square waves as their clock signals, because square waves contain high-frequency harmonics that can interfere with the analog circuitry and cause noise. Such sine wave clocks are often differential signals, because this type of signal has twice the slew rate, and therefore half the timing uncertainty, of a single-ended signal with the same voltage range. Differential signals radiate less strongly than a single line. Alternatively, a single line shielded by power and ground lines can be used.
In CMOS circuits, gate capacitances are charged and uncharged continually. A capacitor does not dissipate energy, but energy is wasted in the driving transistors. Inductors can be used to store this energy and reduce the energy loss, but they tend to be quite large. Alternatively, using a sine wave clock, CMOS transmission gates and energy-saving techniques, the power requirements can be reduced.


The clock signal must be propagated with a clock distribution network. This is often done with a recursive H tree. The whole structure with the gates at the ends and all amplifiers in between have to be loaded and unloaded every cycle. To save energy, unused parts of the tree may be temporarily cut off (clock gating).
clocking in German: Taktsignal
clocking in Korean: 클럭 신호
clocking in Italian: Clock
clocking in Hungarian: Órajel
clocking in Dutch: Klok (digitale techniek)
clocking in Japanese: クロック
clocking in Portuguese: Clock
clocking in Russian: Тактовый сигнал
clocking in Slovak: Hodinový signál
clocking in Swedish: Klockcykel
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