Introduction to Counters:

A counter is a device that stores (and occasionally displays) the number of times a specific event or process has happened, frequently in relationship to a clock signal. Actually, there are two kinds of counters:

  • Up counters that increase (increment) in value
  • Down counters that decrease (decrement) in value

Counters can be implemented fairly easily by using register-type circuits like the flip-flop, and a wide range of designs present, example:

  • Asynchronous (ripple) counter
  • Synchronous counter
  • Decade counter
  • Ring counter
  • Johnson counter
  • Cascaded counter

Each is helpful for dissimilar applications. Generally, counter circuits are digital in nature, and count in natural binary. Several types of counter circuit are exists like digital building blocks.


An asynchronous or ripple counter is a single D-type flip-flop along with its D or data input that feed from its own inverted output. This circuit may store one bit, and therefore can count from zero to one.

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Figure: Asynchronous counter created from two JK flip-flops


A ring counter is a shift register (a cascade connection of flip-flops) along with the output of the last one that connected to the input of the first, i.e. in a ring.


A Johnson counter also termed as a switch tail ring counter or twisted-ring counter or walking-ring counter or Moebius counter is a modified ring counter in which the output from the final stage is inverted and fed back like an input to the first stage.


A decade counter is one which counts in decimal digits then binary.

A decimal counter might contain each digit binary encoded (i.e. it might count in binary-coded decimal. The decade counter is also termed like a mod-counter.


A counter which can alter state in either direction, within the control of an up-down selector input, is termed as up-down counter. While, the selector is in the up state, the counter increases its value; and while the selector is in the down state, the counter decreases the count.

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