|Typical supply pin labeling|
|VCC||VDD||V+||VS+||Positive supply voltage|
|VEE||VSS||V−||VS−||Negative supply voltage|
The simplest labels are V+ and V−. However, internal design and historical tradition have led to a variety of other labels being used. Also, V+ and V− may be confused with the + and − voltage inputs to ICs like op amps.
Sometimes one of the power supply pins will be referred to as ground. In digital logic, this is nearly always the negative pin; in analog integrated circuits, it is most likely to be a pin intermediate in voltage between the most positive and most negative pins .
Double subscript notation uses similar looking placeholders with subscripts. In that notation the subscripted letters denote two points.
In circuit diagrams and circuit analysis, there are long-standing conventions regarding the naming of voltages, currents and some components. In the analysis of a bipolar junction transistor, for example in a common emitter configuration, the DC voltage, with regard to ground, at the collector, emitter and base may be written as VC, VE and VB respectively. Resistors associated with these transistor terminals may be designated RC, RE and RB. In order to create the DC voltages, the furthest voltage, beyond these resistors or other components if present, was often referred to as VCC, VEE and VBB. In practice VCC and VEE then refer to the plus and minus supply lines respectively in common NPN circuits. Note that VCC would be negative and VEE would be positive in equivalent PNP circuits.
Exactly analogous conventions were applied to field-effect transistors with their drain, source and gate terminals. This led to VD and VS being created by supply voltages designated VDD and VSS in the more common circuit configurations. In equivalence to the difference between NPN and PNP bipolars, VDD is positive with regard to VSS in the case of n-channel FETs and MOSFETs and negative for circuits based on p-channel FETs and MOSFETs.
Although still in relatively common use, there is limited relevance of these device-specific power supply designations in circuits that use a mixture of bipolar and FET elements, or in those the employ either both NPN and PNP transistors or both n- and p-channel FETs. This latter case is very common in modern chips, which are often based on CMOS technology, where the C stands for complementary meaning that complementary pairs of n- and p-channel devices are common throughout.
These naming conventions were part of a bigger picture where, to continue with bipolar transistor examples although the FET remains entirely analogous, DC or bias currents into or out of each terminal may be written IC, IE and IB. Apart from DC or bias conditions, many transistor circuits also process a smaller audio-, video- or radio-frequency signal that is superimposed on the bias at the terminals. Lower case letters and subscripts are used to refer to these signal levels at the terminals, either peak-to-peak or rms as required. So we see vc, ve and vb as well as ic, ie and ib. Using these conventions, in a common emitter amplifier, the ratio vc/vb represents the small-signal voltage gain at the transistor and vc/ib the small-signal trans-resistance from which the name transistor is derived by contraction. In this convention, vi and vo usually refer to the external input and output voltages of the circuit or stage.
Similar conventions were applied to circuits involving vacuum tubes or thermionic valves as they were known outside of the U.S. Therefore we see VP, VK and VG referring to plate (or anode outside of the U.S.), cathode (note K, not C) and grid voltages in analyses of vacuum triode, tetrode and pentode circuits.
CMOS ICs have generally borrowed the NMOS convention of VDD for positive and VSS for negative despite the fact that both positive and negative supply rails actually go to source terminals (positive supply goes to PMOS sources, negative supply to NMOS sources). ICs using bipolar transistors have VCC (positive) and VEE (negative) power supply pins.
In single supply systems (e.g., most modern digital and analog circuits) the negative power supply pin is also commonly referred to as GND. In "split rail" supply systems (e.g., older analog circuits) positive, negative and ground power supply pins are used.
More advanced chips will often have pins carrying voltage levels for more specialized functions in or out of the chip and these are generally labeled with some abbreviation of their purpose. For example VBUS for the 5 volt supply needed for a bus-powered USB device or Vref for the reference voltage for an analog-to-digital converter.
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