For instance, when calculating quantities in AC circuits, we find that the "real" number quantities which served us so well in DC circuit analysis are inadequate for the task of representing AC quantities. We know that voltages add when connected in series, but we also know that it is possible to connect a 3-volt AC source in series with a 4-volt AC source and end up with 5 volts total voltage (3 + 4 = 5)! Does this mean the inviolable and self-evident rules of arithmetic have been violated? No, it just means that the rules of "real" numbers do not apply to the kinds of quantities encountered in AC circuits, where every variable has both a magnitude and a phase. Consequently, we must use a different kind of numerical quantity, or object, for AC circuits (complex numbers, rather than real numbers), and along with this different system of numbers comes a different set of rules telling us how they relate to one another.
An expression such as "3 + 4 = 5" is nonsense within the scope and definition of real numbers, but it fits nicely within the scope and definition of complex numbers (think of a right triangle with opposite and adjacent sides of 3 and 4, with a hypotenuse of 5). Because complex numbers are two-dimensional, they are able to "add" with one another trigonometrically as single-dimension "real" numbers cannot.
Logic is much like mathematics in this respect: the so-called "Laws" of logic depend on how we define what a proposition is. The Greek philosopher Aristotle founded a system of logic based on only two types of propositions: true and false. His bivalent (two-mode) definition of truth led to the four foundational laws of logic: the Law of Identity (A is A); the Law of Non-contradiction (A is not non-A); the Law of the Excluded Middle (either A or non-A); and the Law of Rational Inference. These so-called Laws function within the scope of logic where a proposition is limited to one of two possible values, but may not apply in cases where propositions can hold values other than "true" or "false." In fact, much work has been done and continues to be done on "multivalued," or fuzzy logic, where propositions may be true or false to a limited degree. In such a system of logic, "Laws" such as the Law of the Excluded Middle simply do not apply, because they are founded on the assumption of bivalence. Likewise, many premises which would violate the Law of Non-contradiction in Aristotelian logic have validity in "fuzzy" logic. Again, the defining limits of propositional values determine the Laws describing their functions and relations.
The English mathematician George Boole (1815-1864) sought to give symbolic form to Aristotle's system of logic. Boole wrote a treatise on the subject in 1854, titled An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities, which codified several rules of relationship between mathematical quantities limited to one of two possible values: true or false, 1 or 0. His mathematical system became known as Boolean algebra.
All arithmetic operations performed with Boolean quantities have but one of two possible outcomes: either 1 or 0. There is no such thing as "2" or "-1" or "1/2" in the Boolean world. It is a world in which all other possibilities are invalid by fiat. As one might guess, this is not the kind of math you want to use when balancing a checkbook or calculating current through a resistor. However, Claude Shannon of MIT fame recognized how Boolean algebra could be applied to on-and-off circuits, where all signals are characterized as either "high" (1) or "low" (0). His 1938 thesis, titled A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, put Boole's theoretical work to use in a way Boole never could have imagined, giving us a powerful mathematical tool for designing and analyzing digital circuits.
In this chapter, you will find a lot of similarities between Boolean algebra and "normal" algebra, the kind of algebra involving so-called real numbers. Just bear in mind that the system of numbers defining Boolean algebra is severely limited in terms of scope, and that there can only be one of two possible values for any Boolean variable: 1 or 0. Consequently, the "Laws" of Boolean algebra often differ from the "Laws" of real-number algebra, making possible such statements as 1 + 1 = 1, which would normally be considered absurd. Once you comprehend the premise of all quantities in Boolean algebra being limited to the two possibilities of 1 and 0, and the general philosophical principle of Laws depending on quantitative definitions, the "nonsense" of Boolean algebra disappears.
It should be clearly understood that Boolean numbers are not the same as binary numbers. Whereas Boolean numbers represent an entirely different system of mathematics from real numbers, binary is nothing more than an alternative notation for real numbers. The two are often confused because both Boolean math and binary notation use the same two ciphers: 1 and 0. The difference is that Boolean quantities are restricted to a single bit (either 1 or 0), whereas binary numbers may be composed of many bits adding up in place-weighted form to a value of any finite size. The binary number 100112 ("nineteen") has no more place in the Boolean world than the decimal number 210 ("two") or the octal number 328 ("twenty-six").
Let us begin our exploration of Boolean algebra by adding numbers together:
The first three sums make perfect sense to anyone familiar with elementary addition. The last sum, though, is quite possibly responsible for more confusion than any other single statement in digital electronics, because it seems to run contrary to the basic principles of mathematics. Well, it does contradict principles of addition for real numbers, but not for Boolean numbers. Remember that in the world of Boolean algebra, there are only two possible values for any quantity and for any arithmetic operation: 1 or 0. There is no such thing as "2" within the scope of Boolean values. Since the sum "1 + 1" certainly isn't 0, it must be 1 by process of elimination.
It does not matter how many or few terms we add together, either. Consider the following sums:
Take a close look at the two-term sums in the first set of equations. Does that pattern look familiar to you? It should! It is the same pattern of 1's and 0's as seen in the truth table for an OR gate. In other words, Boolean addition corresponds to the logical function of an "OR" gate, as well as to parallel switch contacts:
There is no such thing as subtraction in the realm of Boolean mathematics. Subtraction implies the existence of negative numbers: 5 - 3 is the same thing as 5 + (-3), and in Boolean algebra negative quantities are forbidden. There is no such thing as division in Boolean mathematics, either, since division is really nothing more than compounded subtraction, in the same way that multiplication is compounded addition.
Multiplication is valid in Boolean algebra, and thankfully it is the same as in real-number algebra: anything multiplied by 0 is 0, and anything multiplied by 1 remains unchanged:
This set of equations should also look familiar to you: it is the same pattern found in the truth table for an AND gate. In other words, Boolean multiplication corresponds to the logical function of an "AND" gate, as well as to series switch contacts:
Like "normal" algebra, Boolean algebra uses alphabetical letters to denote variables. Unlike "normal" algebra, though, Boolean variables are always CAPITAL letters, never lower-case. Because they are allowed to possess only one of two possible values, either 1 or 0, each and every variable has a complement: the opposite of its value. For example, if variable "A" has a value of 0, then the complement of A has a value of 1. Boolean notation uses a bar above the variable character to denote complementation, like this:
In written form, the complement of "A" denoted as "A-not" or "A-bar". Sometimes a "prime" symbol is used to represent complementation. For example, A' would be the complement of A, much the same as using a prime symbol to denote differentiation in calculus rather than the fractional notation d/dt. Usually, though, the "bar" symbol finds more widespread use than the "prime" symbol, for reasons that will become more apparent later in this chapter.
Boolean complementation finds equivalency in the form of the NOT gate, or a normally-closed switch or relay contact:
The basic definition of Boolean quantities has led to the simple rules of addition and multiplication, and has excluded both subtraction and division as valid arithmetic operations. We have a symbology for denoting Boolean variables, and their complements. In the next section we will proceed to develop Boolean identities.
- Boolean addition is equivalent to the OR logic function, as well as parallel switch contacts.
- Boolean multiplication is equivalent to the AND logic function, as well as series switch contacts.
- Boolean complementation is equivalent to the NOT logic function, as well as normally-closed relay contacts.
The first Boolean identity is that the sum of anything and zero is the same as the original "anything." This identity is no different from its real-number algebraic equivalent:
No matter what the value of A, the output will always be the same: when A=1, the output will also be 1; when A=0, the output will also be 0.
The next identity is most definitely different from any seen in normal algebra. Here we discover that the sum of anything and one is one:
No matter what the value of A, the sum of A and 1 will always be 1. In a sense, the "1" signal overrides the effect of A on the logic circuit, leaving the output fixed at a logic level of 1.
Next, we examine the effect of adding A and A together, which is the same as connecting both inputs of an OR gate to each other and activating them with the same signal:
In real-number algebra, the sum of two identical variables is twice the original variable's value (x + x = 2x), but remember that there is no concept of "2" in the world of Boolean math, only 1 and 0, so we cannot say that A + A = 2A. Thus, when we add a Boolean quantity to itself, the sum is equal to the original quantity: 0 + 0 = 0, and 1 + 1 = 1.
Introducing the uniquely Boolean concept of complementation into an additive identity, we find an interesting effect. Since there must be one "1" value between any variable and its complement, and since the sum of any Boolean quantity and 1 is 1, the sum of a variable and its complement must be 1:
Just as there are four Boolean additive identities (A+0, A+1, A+A, and A+A'), so there are also four multiplicative identities: Ax0, Ax1, AxA, and AxA'. Of these, the first two are no different from their equivalent expressions in regular algebra:
The third multiplicative identity expresses the result of a Boolean quantity multiplied by itself. In normal algebra, the product of a variable and itself is the square of that variable (3 x 3 = 32 = 9). However, the concept of "square" implies a quantity of 2, which has no meaning in Boolean algebra, so we cannot say that A x A = A2. Instead, we find that the product of a Boolean quantity and itself is the original quantity, since 0 x 0 = 0 and 1 x 1 = 1:
The fourth multiplicative identity has no equivalent in regular algebra because it uses the complement of a variable, a concept unique to Boolean mathematics. Since there must be one "0" value between any variable and its complement, and since the product of any Boolean quantity and 0 is 0, the product of a variable and its complement must be 0:
To summarize, then, we have four basic Boolean identities for addition and four for multiplication:
Another identity having to do with complementation is that of the double complement: a variable inverted twice. Complementing a variable twice (or any even number of times) results in the original Boolean value. This is analogous to negating (multiplying by -1) in real-number algebra: an even number of negations cancel to leave the original value:
Another type of mathematical identity, called a "property" or a "law," describes how differing variables relate to each other in a system of numbers. One of these properties is known as the commutative property, and it applies equally to addition and multiplication. In essence, the commutative property tells us we can reverse the order of variables that are either added together or multiplied together without changing the truth of the expression:
Along with the commutative properties of addition and multiplication, we have the associative property, again applying equally well to addition and multiplication. This property tells us we can associate groups of added or multiplied variables together with parentheses without altering the truth of the equations.
Lastly, we have the distributive property, illustrating how to expand a Boolean expression formed by the product of a sum, and in reverse shows us how terms may be factored out of Boolean sums-of-products:
To summarize, here are the three basic properties: commutative, associative, and distributive.
Let's begin with a semiconductor gate circuit in need of simplification. The "A," "B," and "C" input signals are assumed to be provided from switches, sensors, or perhaps other gate circuits. Where these signals originate is of no concern in the task of gate reduction.
Our first step in simplification must be to write a Boolean expression for this circuit. This task is easily performed step by step if we start by writing sub-expressions at the output of each gate, corresponding to the respective input signals for each gate. Remember that OR gates are equivalent to Boolean addition, while AND gates are equivalent to Boolean multiplication. For example, I'll write sub-expressions at the outputs of the first three gates:
. . . then another sub-expression for the next gate:
Finally, the output ("Q") is seen to be equal to the expression AB + BC(B + C):
Now that we have a Boolean expression to work with, we need to apply the rules of Boolean algebra to reduce the expression to its simplest form (simplest defined as requiring the fewest gates to implement):
The final expression, B(A + C), is much simpler than the original, yet performs the same function. If you would like to verify this, you may generate a truth table for both expressions and determine Q's status (the circuits' output) for all eight logic-state combinations of A, B, and C, for both circuits. The two truth tables should be identical.
Now, we must generate a schematic diagram from this Boolean expression. To do this, evaluate the expression, following proper mathematical order of operations (multiplication before addition, operations inside parentheses before anything else), and draw gates for each step. Remember again that OR gates are equivalent to Boolean addition, while AND gates are equivalent to Boolean multiplication. In this case, we would begin with the sub-expression "A + C", which is an OR gate:
The next step in evaluating the expression "B(A + C)" is to multiply (AND gate) the signal B by the output of the previous gate (A + C):
Obviously, this circuit is much simpler than the original, having only two logic gates instead of five. Such component reduction results in higher operating speed (less delay time from input signal transition to output signal transition), less power consumption, less cost, and greater reliability.
Electromechanical relay circuits, typically being slower, consuming more electrical power to operate, costing more, and having a shorter average life than their semiconductor counterparts, benefit dramatically from Boolean simplification. Let's consider an example circuit:
As before, our first step in reducing this circuit to its simplest form must be to develop a Boolean expression from the schematic. The easiest way I've found to do this is to follow the same steps I'd normally follow to reduce a series-parallel resistor network to a single, total resistance. For example, examine the following resistor network with its resistors arranged in the same connection pattern as the relay contacts in the former circuit, and corresponding total resistance formula:
Remember that parallel contacts are equivalent to Boolean addition, while series contacts are equivalent to Boolean multiplication. Write a Boolean expression for this relay contact circuit, following the same order of precedence that you would follow in reducing a series-parallel resistor network to a total resistance. It may be helpful to write a Boolean sub-expression to the left of each ladder "rung," to help organize your expression-writing:
Now that we have a Boolean expression to work with, we need to apply the rules of Boolean algebra to reduce the expression to its simplest form (simplest defined as requiring the fewest relay contacts to implement):
The more mathematically inclined should be able to see that the two steps employing the rule "A + AB = A" may be combined into a single step, the rule being expandable to: "A + AB + AC + AD + . . . = A"
As you can see, the reduced circuit is much simpler than the original, yet performs the same logical function:
- To convert a gate circuit to a Boolean expression, label each gate output with a Boolean sub-expression corresponding to the gates' input signals, until a final expression is reached at the last gate.
- To convert a Boolean expression to a gate circuit, evaluate the expression using standard order of operations: multiplication before addition, and operations within parentheses before anything else.
- To convert a ladder logic circuit to a Boolean expression, label each rung with a Boolean sub-expression corresponding to the contacts' input signals, until a final expression is reached at the last coil or light. To determine proper order of evaluation, treat the contacts as though they were resistors, and as if you were determining total resistance of the series-parallel network formed by them. In other words, look for contacts that are either directly in series or directly in parallel with each other first, then "collapse" them into equivalent Boolean sub-expressions before proceeding to other contacts.
- To convert a Boolean expression to a ladder logic circuit, evaluate the expression using standard order of operations: multiplication before addition, and operations within parentheses before anything else.