Lifting shape-castable objects


Make Signal(shape_castable, ...) return shape_castable(Signal(shape_castable.as_shape(), ...)).


When Amaranth was a very new language, it did not have any facilities for ascribing type information to data. It had shapes (width and signedness), and it had special handling for range() in the shape position, as well as enumerations. Back then it made sense to have Signal, the single way to define new storage of any kind, to only operate on values (numbers / bit containers).

Today the situation is completely different. Amaranth has first-class support for enumerations in the standard library as well as the standard range of data structures (structs, unions, arrays) via RFC 1 and RFC 3. It provides extensibility through RFC 8 and RFC 9. Using the existing hooks alone it is possible to extend Amaranth with rich numeric types (fixed-point, complex, potentially even floating-point), and some of these are very likely to end up in the standard library.

All of this new functionality internally wraps a Value. It is so common and useful to initialize e.g. a struct view with a fresh Signal that data.View reexports all of the arguments of the Signal constructors and automatically constructs a Signal if no view target is provided. This works, but ties the two together more than would be ideal, and requires every similar facility to reimplement the functionality itself. What is worse is that it seems to be quite confusing to programmers, since it's not apparent that calling data.View(foo_layout) internally creates a Signal. Furthermore, people want to call Signal(foo_layout) to construct some storage for foo_layout, and that works (foo_layout is shape-castable), but does the wrong thing: the returned object is a Signal, not a data.View.

It would make teaching a lot easier if we could draw an equivalence between a Signal and a variable in a general purpose programming language, and between its shape and a type in a general purpose programming language. Then, no matter what shape-castable object it is, the way to make some storage is Signal(x). It will also simplify the internals a fair bit.

This change wasn't practical before RFC 8 and RFC 9 laid the groundwork for it, but now it is an obvious extension.

Guide-level explanation

To include state in a design, use the Signal(shape) constructor, where shape describes the bit layout and possible operations on that state. The reset= argument and the returned value depend on the shape that is provided. If it is signed(N) or unsigned(N) or a built-in enumeration or a range, then a plain Value is returned, and the reset= argument accepts a number, an enumeration member, or a constant. If it is a data.Layout, then a data.View is returned, and the reset= argument accepts a sequence or a mapping, potentially nested for nested layouts. Other shape-castable classes will have their own behavior.

Warning The existing syntax for creating a View with a new Signal underlying it will be removed immediately (it has never been in a release) to resolve an ambiguity over the semantics of __call__.

Reference-level explanation

A method def __call__(self, value): is added on ShapeCastable. It must return Value or a ValueCastable instance with the right shape. (Such a method is opportunistically used by data.View for nested views since RFC 8, however this RFC makes it mandatory for all shape-castable objects.)

The Signal.__call__(shape, ...) method is overridden (on the metaclass) to consider shape. First, a signal is constructed normally with all of the arguments. Afterwards, if shape is a ShapeCastable instance, then shape(signal) is returned. Otherwise signal is returned.


  • Increase in language complexity.
  • More metaclasses.
    • Signal is a final class so this is unlikely to go wrong.
  • A Signal() constructor sometimes returning non-Signal objects can be confusing.

Rationale and alternatives

There are several arguments in favor of the design:

  • It does not de facto introduce any new methods on protocols, since ShapeCastable.__call__ is expected to be implemented by essentially everyone after RFC 8.
  • It does not introduce new complexity to Signal.__init__; the logic for handling non-integer reset exists since RFC 9.
  • It eliminates unnecessary coupling between data.View (and other similar facilities) and Signal().
  • It is a natural extension of the language and has clear parallels to the notion of variables in other languages.
  • It has been repeatedly requested by users, almost every time someone became familiar with the aggregate data structure design.

All of these points are compelling but the last one perhaps the most. The author did not find it a stark enough necessity to introduce themselves but it does seem to be one.


  • Do not do this. The status quo is acceptable.

Prior art

This RFC brings the semantics of Signal to be very close to semantics of typed variables in other languages.

"Lifting" in the title of this RFC refers to a concept in functional programming of the same name where a higher order function (Signal, here) is used to generalize an operation over a set of other functions (data.View and other shape-castable objects that implement the __call__ protocol, here).

Unresolved questions

  • How does this interact with typechecking?
    • This is a straightforward higher order function so it's probably fine.

Future possibilities

This RFC is the final one in a chain that started with RFC 1.

Enumerations and ranges could be adjusted such that something other than Value is returned. This creates backwards compatibility concerns though.