# Logic 101 - Part 2 - Positive vs Negative Logic

**Editors Note:** This is the second in a four-part mini-series on different ways of looking at logical representations. This is abstracted from the book Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (An Unconventional Guide to Electronics) with the kind permission of the publisher. The topics in this mini-series are as follows:

Part 1 – Assertion-Level Logic

**Part 2 – Positive vs Negative Logic**

Part 3 – Reed Muller Logic

Part 4 – Gray Codes

The terms

*positive logic*and

*negative logic*refer to two conventions that dictate the relationship between logical values and the physical voltages used to represent them. Unfortunately, although the core concepts are relatively simple, fully comprehending all of the implications associated with these conventions requires an exercise in lateral thinking sufficient to make even the strongest amongst us break down and weep!

Before plunging into the fray, it is important to understand that logic 0 and logic 1 are always equivalent to the Boolean logic concepts of *False* and *True*, respectively (unless you're really taking a walk on the wild side, in which case all bets are off). The reason these terms are used interchangeably is that digital functions can be considered to represent either *logical* or *arithmetic* operations (*Fig 1*).

*1. Logical versus arithmetic views of a digital function.*

Having said this, it is generally preferable to employ a single consistent format to cover both cases, and it is easier to view logical operations in terms of "0s" and "1s" than it is to view arithmetic operations in terms of "Fs" and "Ts". The key point to remember as we go forward is that logic 0 and logic 1 are logical concepts that have no direct relationship to any physical values.

**Physical-to-abstract mapping (NMOS logic)**

OK, let's gird up our loins and meander our way through the morass one step at a time. The process of relating logical values to physical voltages begins by defining the frames of reference to be used. One absolute frame of reference is provided by truth tables, which are always associated with specific functions (*Fig 2*).

*2. Absolute relationships between truth tables and functions.*

Another absolute frame of reference is found in the physical world, where specific voltage levels applied to the inputs of a digital function cause corresponding voltage responses on the outputs. These relationships can also be represented in truth table form. Consider a logic gate constructed using only NMOS transistors (*Fig 3*).

*3. The physical mapping of an NMOS logic gate.*

With NMOS transistors connected as shown in *Fig 3*, an input connected to the more negative Vss turns that transistor OFF, and an input connected to the more positive Vdd turns that transistor ON. The final step is to define the mapping between the physical and abstract worlds; either 0v is mapped to *False* and +ve is mapped to *True*, or vice versa (*Fig 4*).

*4. The physical to abstract mapping of an NMOS logic gate.*

Using the positive logic convention, the more positive potential is considered to represent *True* and the more negative potential is considered to represent *False* (hence, positive logic is also known as *positive-true*). By comparison, using the negative logic convention, the more negative potential is considered to represent *True* and the more positive potential is considered to represent *False* (hence, negative logic is also known as *negative-true*). Thus, this circuit may be considered to be performing either a NAND function in positive logic or a NOR function in negative logic. (Are we having fun yet?)