I have a Verilog test bench that monitors a 64-bit bus and should randomly schedule a flipped bit (packet corruption) to happen every 1-in-X packets. I was surprised to find it not injecting any corruption, and seemingly this is due to patterns in $random ?

Verilog module, placed inline with bus:

module test_cable  #(
    parameter EMPTY_BITS = 3,
    parameter DATA_BITS = 64
) (
input wire         clk,

input wire [DATA_BITS-1:0]   eth_c2cable_data,
input wire                   eth_c2cable_valid,
input wire                   eth_c2cable_sop,
input wire [EMPTY_BITS-1:0]  eth_c2cable_empty,
input wire                   eth_c2cable_eop,
input wire                   eth_c2cable_error,
output wire                  eth_c2cable_ready,

output wire [DATA_BITS-1:0]  eth_cable2s_data,
output wire                  eth_cable2s_valid,
output wire                  eth_cable2s_sop,
output wire [EMPTY_BITS-1:0] eth_cable2s_empty,
output wire                  eth_cable2s_eop,
output wire                  eth_cable2s_error,
input wire                   eth_cable2s_ready

// Corruption control task
// 2'b00  clean
// 2'b01  corrupt 1 pkt in 2^6
// 2'b10  corrupt 1 pkt in 2^7
// 2'b11  corrupt 1 pkt in 2^8
reg [1:0]  ready_control = 2'b00;
reg [31:0] random_next = 0;

task setCorruptControl;
    input [1:0] bitf;
        ready_control <= bitf;

// ready bit control
reg [7:0] corrupt_at_cycle = 0;
wire [31:0] random_mask = (1'b1 << (6+ready_control))-1;
always @(posedge clk) begin
    random_next   <= $random;

    if ((eth_c2cable_sop && eth_c2cable_valid) && ready_control > 0 && (random_next & random_mask) == 32'b0) begin
        // corrupt this packet at some point. we don't know how big packet is, so somewhere in first 16 cycles
        // if the packet stops before we corrupt, we'll hit the next one
        corrupt_at_cycle <= random_next[24 +: 4];
        $display("Scheduling corruption %t for +%d cycles %08x", $time, random_next[24 +: 4], random_next);

    end else if (corrupt_at_cycle > 0 && eth_c2cable_valid) begin
        corrupt_at_cycle <= corrupt_at_cycle - 1'b1;

    if (eth_c2cable_corruption != 0) begin
        $display("Corrupting wire packet with noise %016x", eth_c2cable_corruption);

// corrupt by flipping single bit in this cycle
wire [63:0] eth_c2cable_corruption = corrupt_at_cycle == 1 ? { 1'b1 << random_next[24 +: 5] } : 64'b0;

assign eth_cable2s_data   = eth_c2cable_data ^ eth_c2cable_corruption;
assign eth_cable2s_valid  = eth_c2cable_valid;
assign eth_cable2s_sop    = eth_c2cable_sop;
assign eth_cable2s_eop    = eth_c2cable_eop;
assign eth_cable2s_empty  = eth_c2cable_empty;
assign eth_cable2s_error  = eth_c2cable_error;
assign eth_c2cable_ready  = eth_cable2s_ready;


Looking at the simulation output corruption is always scheduled to occur in zero cycles, so never happens:

Scheduling corruption            882531000 for + 0 cycles 40002780
Scheduling corruption            887190000 for + 0 cycles 002edf00
Scheduling corruption            894192000 for + 0 cycles 4049c380
Scheduling corruption            907395000 for + 0 cycles c0270a80
Scheduling corruption            948746000 for + 0 cycles 4010dd80
Scheduling corruption            959389000 for + 0 cycles 40155b80
Scheduling corruption            964957000 for + 0 cycles c0357a80
                                                           ^     ^

This seems to be caused by bits random_next[24 +: 4] and random_next[0 +: 6] being zero coincidently. I arbitrarily chose the bits from 24 hoping they would have no correlation with the low bits. Is this a weakness with the Verilog pseudo-random number algorithm, or a problem with the Icarus Verilog simulator?

After much bug-hunting, I modified occurrences of random_next[24 +: 4] to random_next[28 +: 4] and the test bench works.


2 Answers 2


I have written a little testbench that demonstrates the problem stand-alone:

module testbench;

integer i, j = 0;
reg [31:0] randval;

initial begin
    for (i = 0; i < 100000; i = i+1) begin
        randval = $random;
        if (randval[0 +: 6] == 0) begin
            $display("%8d %6d: %x -> %d %d", i, j, randval, randval[0 +: 6], randval[24 +: 4]);
            if (randval[24 +: 4] != 0) $finish;
            j = j + 1;
    $display("IEEE Std 1364-2005 $random (rtl_dist_uniform(seed, LONG_MIN, LONG_MAX)) sucks!");


The really interesting thing here is that the exact behavior of $random is defined in IEEE Std 1364-2005. There is actually C code in the standard (pages 317 and 318). I don't want to quote it here in full, but a copy of the code can be found for example in Icarus Verilog:


Calling $random in Verilog equals to calling rtl_dist_uniform(&a_seed, INT_MIN, INT_MAX) in this C file.

So what you demonstrated here is not only a weakness in $random of just one particular simulator, but a weakness in $random in general.

One solution would be to simply implement your own random number generator. I often use the Xorshift family of random number generators because they work fairly well and are easy to implement:


The following example uses a 64 bit xorshift to generate 32 bit numbers:

module testbench;

reg [63:0] xorshift64_state = 64'd88172645463325252;

task xorshift64_next;
        // see page 4 of Marsaglia, George (July 2003). "Xorshift RNGs". Journal of Statistical Software 8 (14).
        xorshift64_state = xorshift64_state ^ (xorshift64_state << 13);
        xorshift64_state = xorshift64_state ^ (xorshift64_state >>  7);
        xorshift64_state = xorshift64_state ^ (xorshift64_state << 17);

integer i;
initial begin
    for (i = 0; i < 100; i = i+1) begin
        $display("%x", xorshift64_state[31:0]);

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the succinct testbench and confirmation! I observed the same behaviour in ModelSim and agree the weakness is in $random as defined in the Verilog spec. Thanks for the xorshit64 module, I'll give that a go - clearly fuzz testing with vanilla $random could have subtle bugs. \$\endgroup\$
    – shuckc
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to raise a Mantis bug report for this but it's not clear who to contact. Anyone on the IEEE P1800 Working Group? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chiggs
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 16:14

Worth mentioning I have found Icarus Verilog includes a non-standard random number generator as a built-in:

These functions are similar to the IEEE1364 standard $random
functions, but they use the Mersenne Twister (MT19937)
algorithm. This is considered an excellent random number
generator, but does not generate the same sequence as the
standardized $random.

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