-- (siehe auch
last update: 2006

Reiner Hartenstein’s Technical Impact on Electronic Design Automation

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Reiner Hartenstein, Kaiserslautern University of Technology; Kaiserslautern, Germany,

The trail-blazing book: 

Reiner Hartenstein: “Fundamentals of Structured Hardware Design”; September 1977, Elsevier Science Ltd New York, NY, USA   -  (amazon)

By the Computer Science Division of the University of California at Berkeley it has been used several years as the official textbook for regularly scheduled courses.

Biographical information, professional activities, publications, and recognition:

Reiner Hartenstein is CS professor at TU Kaiserslautern and was visiting  professor at UC Berkeley. As a scholar of Prof. Karl Steinbuch his degrees are from KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, where he later was associate  professor. He is still involved in a close cooperation with the ITIV institute at KIT as well as with Universidad de Brasilia. He is also still active as an authorized expert and referee.

Reiner Hartenstein is credited to be the father of High Performance Reconfigurable Computing (HPRC) as well as of the counterpart to the von  Neumann machine paradigm (by using data counters instead of a program counter): father of the data-stream machine paradigm (no „dataflow“ machine), also called anti-machine or xputer (not: transputer), and of data-stream programming languages by implementing MoPL.

Here, already in the 80ies, he spearheaded methodologies to cope with the von Neumann syndrome (decades before this term has been coined by Prof. C. V. Ramamoorthy), obtaining speed-up factors  by up to several orders of magnitude.

Reiner Hartenstein is the father of the trail-blazing hardware  design  language KARL used worldwide in the 80ies, also the backbone of the  world’s first complete VLSI design and testing CAD framework.

Being fully calculus-capable, KARL enabled already in thelate 70ies the first Term Rewriting demonstrations in top-down EDA by an integer multiplier generated from the math formula, by inventing the Shuffle Sort algorithm by parallelizing the Bubble Sort for VLSI implementation, and other pioneering examples.

Reiner Hartenstein is also the founder of the Multi  University „E.I.S. Projekt“, the German contribution to the worldwide Mead-&-Conway  VLSI design revolution (the first such effort on the continent - from Lisbon thru Wladiwostok) - the incubator of the huge EU-funded worldwide EUROCHIP action (highly active still to-day). 

Reiner Hartenstein is the founder of three, and a cofounder of two more successful international conference series. Reiner Hartenstein was general chair or program chair of a number of international conferences, as well as TPC member of a large number of international conferences.

Reiner Hartenstein is IEEE life fellow, SDPS fellow, FPL fellow, and recipient of several other awards. He has published 14 books and more than 400 technical papers and has given numerous talks, including more than 40 invited tutorials and more than 200 invited talks and 40 keynote  addresses.

List of publications:

Proposed citation:

For outstanding technical methodology contributions to electronic design automation with broad impacts in academia and industry.

The impact of the book covered over for a more than ten year period:  (1) technical/scientific research impact, (2) industrial/commercial product impact, and (3) broad impact to the EDA community

Reiner Hartenstein's book introduces major methodological achievements by the concept of KARL, a Pascal-inspired hardware design language which was used throughout the world in the 80ies - before VHDL came up a decade later. The list of KARL license sites includes the following countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA. This book was a bestseller, so that Reiner Hartenstein received a lot of invitations to give tutorials, invited presentations, and, even some keynote addresses.

What advancements have been enabled by the ideas presented in the book?

The evidence of a massive amount of follow-up research is reflected in a major number of citations, covering:

KARL parsers and other compiler modules,

also for test pattern development and analysis,

PLA generation,

placement and routing,

full-custom VLSI layout synthesis,

graphic user interfaces

and much more  ......

.....  have been developed in Australia (Bryan Coghlan), Austria (Herbert Grünbacher), Brazil (Flavio R. Wagner, C. M. Freitas, L.G. Colendziner, F.M. Oliveira, L. F. R. Machado, Eduardo da Costa, Carlos I. Z. Mammana, Roberto Tom Price, ITAUCOM Sao Paolo, ITA San Jose), France (J. Pierre Tual, P. Schoellkopf, Francois Anceau, Monique Hyvernaud, Daniel Marre), Ireland (Daniel McCarthy, Trinity College), Italy (Alberto di Janni, Amelio Patrucco, Paolo Prinetto, Maria Giovanna Sami, Luciano Lavagno, Guglielmo Girardi), Japan (V. G. Moshnyaga, H. Yasuura), Norway (P. A. Anderson, M. Nygaard), Poland (Adam Pawlak), South Africa (Dr. D. F. Frost, University of Stellenbosch), Spain (Eugenio Villar, Salvador Bracchio), Sweden (Gunnar Carlstedt, Ulf Hedengran), and USA (Steve Shapiro, Dr. D. R. Smith), as well as by several universities and research institutes in Germany (Aachen, St. Augustin-Birlinghoven, Bremen, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Passau, and Stuttgart).

for more details also see

Evidence of usage of the described technology in an industrial setting:

SGS (later called ST microelectronics: the KARL-based VLSI design framework has been used by SGS for the design of a voice generator microchip and other circuits.

Olivettii: the KARL-based VLSI design framework has been used by Olivetti for test pattern generation and for testability analysis.

CSELT (Centro Studi E Laboratori Telecomunicazioni), at that time the research center of the Italian Telephone System:  based on the KARL and ABL compilers and simulators CSELT has coordinated the creation of the world-wide first complete VLSI design framework, many years before the term “VLSI design framework” has been coined elsewhere

Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG, Stuttgart (now called Alcatel-Lucent) contributed to the KARL-based VLSI design framework by its software package DTSV (Design and Testing Support for VLSI)

more about KARL usage: see list of 93 licensee sites:

Major designs implemented in using KARL and ABLED

Studies including KARL

29 Software packages interfaced to KARL

Other KARL related software (15 items)

KARL-related quotation index (114 items)

Karl-related literature (179 items):

The evidence of starting new directions

and/or spawning new ideas as appropriate for a high technical/scientific research impact, and a broad impact to the EDA community is summarized by the following 16 sections:

1.)       The book was a Bestseller,

The book was a Bestseller sold out rapidly. Because of the world-wide distribution of this book Reiner Hartenstein received a  lot of invitations for 218 invited presentations, invited tutorials and even for his first keynote in 1979 in Budapest - at that time still behind the iron curtain  (meanwhile 39 keynotes so far).

2.)       Inspiring Prof. Carver Mead to coin the term  “Structured VLSI System Design.

Lynn Conway said: I guess the title of Hartenstein`s book inspired Carver Mead coining the term "Structured VLSI Design" inside his book (with co-author Lynn ‘Conway):

3.)  The first Microelectronics CAD framework worldwide

A KARL and ABL implementation has been the backbone of the first VLSI CAD framework in the world, years before somebody else coined this term. The development of this framework has been funded by the European Union with 85 million ECU (an ECU: roughly a  EURO). For components of this framework see fig. 33 and fig. 32: of the web site. Industry partners have been SGS (meanwhile ST microelectronics) and Olivetti (at that time a computer firm)

4.)  KARL the dominant design language throughout a decade (the 80ies)

This book introduced the language KARL which was used throughout the world in the 80ies - before VHDL came up. This list of KARL license sites includes the following countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

5.)  More than 100 quotations

See  the KARL-related Quotation Index- last update 1992, (2 exceptions)

6.) Almost 200 other KARL-related publications.

See the list of KARL-related literature  (last update 1993):

7.) About 40  KARL- or ABL-related programs from other sources

See the section “Software interfaced to KARL, ABLED and RTcode” and the section “Other KARL related software or KARL Dialects”  and the section “Other KARL related software or KARL Dialects” in the KARL web site.

8.)  The world’s first fully calculus-capable hardware design language

Fully calculus-capable - in contrast to VHDL: KARL is fully calculus-capable, also including a generic wiring pattern calculus (shift, butterfly, etc.) and the "domino notation" for working with floor plans. See fig. 30 in the KARL web site. For KARL-based floor planning see fig. 31.

9.) The first Term-Rewriting example demonstrating automatic hardware synthesis

Using the KARL language as a design calculus Reiner Hartenstein’s book has introduced an early version of an early (integer multiplier) example of synthesis by term re-writing (TRS). A well-known TRS expert (Prof. Mauricio Ayala-Rincon) concluded as late as in 2001, that this example was still new in EDA, since all other EDA use of TRS had been for verification, which is  bottom-up, whereas Reiner Hartenstein’s early example is the only top-down example of use in EDA. More details you find within the KARL and ABL history page. For the set of rewriting rules see section 3.1 on algebraic structured design as well as fig. 27  (the automatically generated multiplier bit generator floorplan) and fig. 28.  Conclusion: the fully calculus-capable language KARL enabled the first example of the automatic IC floorplan synthesis by Term Rewriting.    Also see algebraic structured design

10.) Inventing the Shuffle Sort Algorithm

A by-product of this KARL-related TRL-based effort has been among other pioneering examples, that Reiner Hartenstein invented the Bubble Sort algorithm for VLSI implementation, by parallelization of the Bubble Sort algorithm. See page 460 in

11.) Many more trailblazing features of KARL and ABL

KARL is the first fully dichotomic modeling language fully featuring all possible kinds of descriptions: procedural descriptions, functional descriptions, structural descriptions, pseudo-structural descriptions, topological descriptions and geometric descriptions – fully covering all abstraction levels: functional level (register transfer), gate level, and switching level, all in 2 versions: combinational and with memory KARL has been the first language completely covering cell declarations, port declarations, function declarations, horizontal and vertical abutment operators, catenation operators (juxtaposition), mirror and rotate transformations, as well as interconnect operators supporting all types of buses (upbus, downbus, tribus). For instance in contrast to VHDL when introduced, KARL fully and deterministically covers all bit values (0, 1, off (high impedance), unknown). For more details also see the history report.

12.) The first hardware design language with a graphical user interface

KARL included the implementation of a compatible graphic language ABL ( A Blockiagram Language ), an interactive graphic language ABL which has also been integrated into the CAD framework.

13.) Spearheading the world-wide EUROCHIP action

Reiner Hartenstein spearheading the huge world-wide EUROCHIP action still running to-day: KARL-based activities spearheaded the foundation of the multi-university E.I.S. Projekt by me, which was the incubator of the EUROCHIP action running world-wide still to-day.

14.)  Reiner Hartenstein is credited  to be the father of High Performance Reconfigurable Computing

As a spin-off from his KARL-related environment Reiner Hartenstein became the father of High Performance Reconfigurable Computing (HPRC), where he obtained speed-up factors by up to 15000, more than a decade before the Reconfigurable Computing scene published similar factors (see survey on speed-ups).  (coming: ##### details on PISA project #### )

15.)  Reiner Hartenstein is credited  to be the father of the ‘Anti-Machine paradigm

Reiner Hartenstein became the father of the counterpart to the von Neumann machine paradigm (by using data counters instead of a  program counter): by being the father of the  data-stream machine paradigm (no „dataflow“ machine), also called anti-machine or xputer (not: transputer).  Here, already in the 80ies, he spearheaded methodologies to cope with the von Neumann syndrome  (decades before he has coined this term), obtaining speed-up factors by up to several orders of magnitude

16.)  Strengthening the Mead-&-Conway VLSI design revolution

Reiner Hartenstein’s  all-embracing and massively trailblazing book spearheaded a major improvement of the fundamental methodology LSI design massively influencing the consequences of introducing the Mead-&-Conway revolution throughout the continent (Europe and Asia): by Structured Hardware Design.

17.) Richard Newton has criticized VHDL

Although being a step backward in the state of the art the introduction of VHDL finally defeated KARL after having world-wide successful all over the 80ies. At several occasions Richard Newton massively criticized VHDL. In a keynote he called it the "nroff" of VLSI design, and in several of his presentations he quoted Joe Costello (at that time CEO of CADENCE): that the introduction of VHDL caused a damage by several hundreds of millions of Dollars. In my opinion KARL has been really much more advanced than VHDL. - Introducing VHDL has been a dramatic step backward, similar to discarding Pascal and PL-I by introducing C - verbose but close to assembler language. But, compared to KARL, VHDL had a much more powerful lobby with powerful connections to the DoD. I remember a high officer of the US navy who left a VHDL-supporting committee, since he did not want his name to be mentioned in the context of introducing VHDL.

18.) Addendum (miscellanoeous)

A single DPLA replacing 256 state of the art FPGAs of  that time (mid' 80ies),

KressArray, the generalization of the systolic array:



PISA project: DRC by image processing a speed-up of up to 15.000,


19.) Terms coined by Reiner Hartenstein:

  • Anti Machine

  • Configware

  • Data-Procedural Language

  • Domino notation

  • Reconfigurable Computing Paradox

  • Generic Address Generator (GAG)

  • Kress/Kung machine


  • Structured Hardware Design

  • Super Systolic Array

  • Tunnel Vision Syndrome of CS education


19 b.)

  • "von Neumann Syndrome" coined by C.V. Ramamoorthy (UC Berkeley) when opening the discussion after Reiner Hartenstein's keynote address "The Transdisciplinary Responsibility of CS Curricula"; at the 8th World Conference on Integrated Design & Process Technology (IDPT), June 25 - 29, 2006, San Diego, - also see


20.) Inventor of data-procedural languages (data stream programming instead of instruction stream programming)


Introduction of the data-procedural language MoPL:


sciweavers on Data-Procedural Languages for FPL-based Machines:

History of Xputers:


List of Publications on Xputers:


Data Sequencers:  The Generic Address Generator (GAG):


Speed-ups obtained by vN to RC migration (von Neumann to Reconfigurable Computing migration):


The KressArray: the generalization of the systolic array:


An overview about xputer pages:


History of an early compiler for heterogeneous systems:


MoM-3 data stream Programming Language Examples


About the Xputer Paradigm:


The Anti-Machine Page (anti-von-Neumann, since data-stream-driven):


21.)  EDA achievements


the worldwide first complete VLSI CAD framework:


LynnConway about the German "E.I.S.-Projekt":


KARL users (licensee sites, systems interfaced to it or implemented on it, quotation index etc.):


The foundation and the history of the "E.I.S.-Projekt":


The worldwide first complete VLSI CAD framework --  EU-funded:

Notes from cordis EU project search procedure:

EU Project Search Results:      CVT project        CVS project


Hartenstein mentioned in the book on the von Neumann syndrome: the book - also click here !