the Technology Interface / Winter98
Getting Started With Altera VHDL
a tutorial exercise


Jeffrey S. Beasley
Department of Engineering Technology
New Mexico State University


William B. Hudson
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Kansas State University


This VHDL tutorial has been prepared to acquaint the student with VHDL programming using the student edition of the MAX+PLUS II Version 7.21 Student Edition PROGRAMMABLE LOGIC DEVELOPMENT SOFTWARE. The tutorial provides a step by step procedure for implementing a simple VHDL program in the Altera system.


Altera Corporation now provides a student edition of their powerful programmable logic development software through their University Program. Any university can apply to participate in the program The URL for the Altera University program is .

This suite of tools provides an option for the development of complex digital systems using their VHDL (Very High Speed Integrated Circuit Hardware Description Language) compiler. The student edition is very powerful and contains most of the features of the full version except the student version only compiles to a limited set of Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs), these being the

The installation procedure for using the software is simple. It requires 33 MB of hard disk space and 8 MB or RAM. The student edition does require that the user registers on-line with Altera. Following software installation, the user is given a software guard ID number and instructed to register this number with Altera. The number is registered through the Altera WWW site at Once this number is registered with Altera, the user is emailed an authorization code number. The user must enter the authorization code before using the software. Fig. 1 shows the Altera prompt for the registration number followed by the instructions for obtaining the authorization code, and acknowledgement of the request for registration and authorization code.

Fig. 1 The Altera prompt for the registration number.

It may take up to ½ hour to get your authorization code from Altera. Sometimes you will get your code number back in a few minutes. Once you have the authorization code start your Max+plusII software. Your software should prompt you that you have an invalid authorization code as shown in Fig. 2. Click on OK and you will get another screen as shown in Fig. 3 prompting you to obtain a proper authorization code from Altera. Click on OK and enter the authorization code. You can also change your authorization code by selecting Options / Authorization Code. You will get the screen shown below.

Fig. 2 Prompt indicating an invalid authorization code.

Fig. 3 Prompt for the proper authorization code

This tutorial assumes that the student has been briefly introduced to VHDL syntax. The tutorial contains a simple VHDL description of a TTL 7408 2-input AND gate. The VHDL program will run, as is, with the Altera package.

Altera VHDL Programming Procedure

This paper has presented a short tutorial for using the Altra VHDL option. The information presented provides a brief introduction. Additional VHDL Sample Routines are provided in this issue of the Technology Interface for those wishing to gain more experience with VHDL.

Suggested References

Skahill, K., VHDL for Programmable Logic Addison Wesley, 1996

Bhasker, J., A VHDL Primer, revised edition Prentice Hall, 1995

Ashenden, P., The Designer's Guide to VHDL, Morgan Kaufmann, 1996

Altra MAX+PLUS II VHDL, Altera Corporation, San Jose, CA, 1996

VHDL Made Easy, David Pellerin and Douglas Taylor, Prentice Hall PTR, 1997

VHDL Starter's Guide, Sudhakar Yalamanchili, Prentice Hall, 1998