In this post, we will tell you about the best programming languages 2022 for hardware engineers and electrical engineers
A lot of people are asking which programming language to pick and to study? Which language is in high demand right now should you study? System Verilog or VHDL should you study? C or C++ or maybe python or maybe Specman? We will try to address all of these questions in this post.
Coding is something certainly associated with software development. However, just trust me, you cannot survive and prosper in the hardware world without coding skills. So today, we would like to share with you my five top programming languages for hardware engineers and electrical engineers. And this rating will be based on three factors.
- today’s popularity of the language
- the outlook for the future
- and the job opportunities
The number five on our list is Verilog. Verilog is a hardware description language that is used to describe the behavior and structure of electronic circuits mostly digital circuits. So basically coding with Verilog is what we call digital design nowadays. Verilog was created back in 1984 so about 40 years ago and it’s based on C and other programming languages. That’s why, its syntax is actually similar to C. Verilog, nowadays, is used to describe any hardware or digital systems such as a microprocessor or a memory. And what is important? It can be used to describe it at different abstraction levels:
- Behavior level
- Register transfer level
- Gate level
For instance, you can describe the behavior of some analog oscillator or video DSP and the can be synthesized in hardware or you can just download some very low code of our microprocessor. And then implement it in FPGA or silicon.
Verilog Vs VHDL
Now we can foresee that you have a question why Verilog and why not VHDL? in the industry nowadays VHDL is getting obsolete and it’s being replaced by Verilog. And even, the EDA vendors do not support VHDL-related bugs anymore. So their RNG is only focused on Verilog-related development and this trend is happening for the last 10 years and will go on.
The only application where VHDL is still commonly used is FPGA design and designed for aerospace and defense applications. But this is only a tiny fraction of the whole electronic circuit market and the rest is definitely dominated by Verilog.
4. System Verilog
Number four in our list is an enhanced version of Verilog called System Verilog. System Verilog first time appeared two decades ago and it was designed by Synopsys as an evolution of the Verilog language. This acts as a superset of the Verilog 2005 version and a lot of extension to it. Additionally, it contains also some features of C and VHDL languages. And System Verilog is a hardware description language as well as a hardware verification language which means it is HDVL.
So System Verilog is a unique language that can be used to describe the behavior of the hardware as well as to verify it. So this is the beauty of it. System Verilog is widely used in the semiconductor industry and the hardware design industry. In large companies like AMD, Intel, QUALCOMM, NVidia, for instance, the digital design and verification and modeling of a complex SSC such as apples and one chip can be carried out in System Verilog.
Why choose System Verilog?
We found a very cool analysis done by Siemens about the industrial language trends. So you can see the trend here. The first bars reflect the popularity of the language like 10 years ago. The third bar shows its usage in 2020 and the last bright blue bar reflects the future projection. At first one can see that Verilog is the most adapted language. What is interesting is that in the last years VHDL and Verilog are decaying and System Verilog is picking up. This chart is actually nicely illustrating or let’s say confirms why we didn’t include VHDL in our list today.
Now let’s have a look at the second chart which shows the verification trends. We can see that the most used language nowadays is System Verilog. It’s used in eighty percent of all designs. The next two languages here are C and Verilog. While you can see that VHDL and Specman are very rarely used.
So in case you are now deciding which programming language invests your time to be in high demand on the job market, you should definitely consider System Verilog. It will be certainly in high demand for hardware design, modeling, and verification for the next decades.
The number three on my list is MATLAB. It is a high-level programming language that comes with its own EDA, so integrated design environment and a huge set of libraries. MATLAB was created in ages by mathematician and programmer Cleveland Maler. His goal was to find an alternative way for his students to perform linear algebra and numerical computations without using Fortran and MATLAB itself is written on C language and C+. Furthermore, it is sort of a mathematical scripting language whose syntax is similar to C++. It is quite popular nowadays and it’s quite high in the programming language ratings. It’s overtaking GO, Swift, Pearl, Fortran and many others.
MATLAB is widely used in different fields of engineering and science. it’s used in control systems and embedded systems and it’s used in the semiconductor industry as well as in the automotive industry. And the companies like AMD, BROADCOM, and larger chip makers, all of them are using MATLAB in their flow. For instance, MATLAB can be used to model and design a complete communication system and then to analyze the performance and even to compare it with the measurements.
Why MATLAB is popular?
Why MATLAB is so popular? If you are not a computer engineer and you don’t have any coding background but you need to analyze a large set of data and visualize it, you can do it using MATLAB without really understanding anything about programming. The MATLAB development environment in the debugger is really handy and the MATLAB code is super easy to follow even if you don’t have any coding background. Another cool thing is that MATLAB comes together with Simulink which is a block diagram-based environment used for modeling and simulation of complex systems. This makes it even easier to simulate large systems without having any coding skills.
So it is definitely worth learning MATLAB and Simulink for hardware engineers and electrical engineers. As it is very likely that in your career you will need to collect a lot of data, analyze a large set of data and visualize it and for this MATLAB is the tool.
2. C language
The number two in our list is C language and we know you must be astonished right now we get it because C by the standard of modern tech it’s a pretty old language. It’s like a grandfather of all the modern languages like Python, PHP. Yes, it was invented about 50 years ago at BELL LAB and it remains popular till today. In 2021, C programming language is ranking first, moving up from the second position which it took in 2020.
Why C language is popular?
Nowadays, the C programming language is the most popular programming language among all and most of the modern system software is written in C. For instance, operating systems such as Windows and Linux. C is widely used to program hardware. It’s used to program microcontrollers which are embedded in everything starting from toasters to medical devices to automobiles. All of these devices are programmed at C. Furthermore, C is the language of choice for embedded systems and firmware programming. C has an advantage because it allows you to develop firmware with limited resources. For instance, when a microcontroller has a very small ram, Glassdoor lists thousands of jobs in the fields of embedded systems, testing, firmware, development, and others that require C programming skills.
C programming language is an excellent tool to have in your toolbox as a hardware engineer or as an electrical engineer. And if you’re into programming hardware such as microcontrollers or embedded systems, you need C knowledge so there is no way out.
Finally, the number one in our list is Python and there are many reasons for that. Python is the successor to B and C programming languages. It was created back in 1991. Python was selected as the language of the year in 2018 and 2020 and right now it’s ranking second right after C. Companies that widely use python include Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Also, Instagram and Reddit are fully written on python.
Why choose Python?
Python is used in a wide variety of applications including emerging fields such as IoT, artificial intelligence quantum computing, and data science. That’s all great but you might be wondering how python is related to hardware engineering and electrical engineering? The main use of python lies in automating routine tasks which we perform daily. For instance, it may include opening a terminal and going to a certain path. Then find a file layer, open the file, and parse some values. Then fit the values into a CSV file and then send this file to the email. This is one of the classic examples where you can write a single python script to automate all of these steps.
We highly recommend it. Furthermore, Python is the language of choice for design automation. Most of the EDA commercial editors are written on python and support python IP which means you can use python to automate some of the design steps. For instance, using python you can automate the generation of a full custom layout for some of the analog blocks. So python knowledge is in high demand right now and it will be.
So these are the five best programming languages for hardware engineers and electrical engineers. Do not, however, learn only one programming language and rely entirely on this language because no language is the best solution for every task. Sometimes you need just a unique shell and sometimes you need to write a small code script to automate some complex process.