Johnson Counters

Johnson counters

The switch-tail ring counter, also know as the Johnson counter, overcomes some of the limitations of the ring counter. Like a ring counter a Johnson counter is a shift register fed back on its’ self. It requires half the stages of a comparable ring counter for a given division ratio. If the complement output of a ring counter is fed back to the input instead of the true output, a Johnson counter results. The difference between a ring counter and a Johnson counter is which output of the last stage is fed back (Q or Q'). Carefully compare the feedback connection below to the previous ring counter.

Figure 1: 4-bit Johnson Ring counter

This “reversed” feedback connection has a profound effect upon the behavior of the otherwise similar circuits. Recirculating a single 1 around a ring counter divides the input clock by a factor equal to the number of stages. Whereas, a Johnson counter divides by a factor equal to twice the number of stages. For example, a 4-stage ring counter divides by 4. A 4-stage Johnson counter divides by 8.

Start a Johnson counter by clearing all stages to 0s before the first clock. This is often done at power-up time. Referring to the figure below, the first clock shifts three 0s from (QA QB QC) to the right into (QB QC QD). The 1 at Q'D is shifted back into QA. Thus, we start shifting 1s to the right, replacing the 0s. Where a ring counter recirculated a single 1, the 4-stage Johnson counter recirculates four 0s then four 1s for an 8-bit pattern, then repeats.

Figure 2: Timing-diagram of four stage Johnson Ring counter with 1000 loaded

The above waveforms illustrates that multi-phase square waves are generated by a Johnson counter. The 4-stage unit above generates four overlapping phases of 50% duty cycle. How many stages would be required to generate a set of three phase waveforms? For example, a three stage Johnson counter, driven by a 360 Hertz clock would generate three 120o phased square waves at 60 Hertz.