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Linear-Feedback Shift Register

Definition of Linear-feedback Shift Register

A Linear-feedback Shift Register (LFSR) is a type of shift register, a sequential digital circuit that generates pseudorandom bit patterns. What sets LFSRs apart is their feedback mechanism, which involves shifting the contents of the register and using the XOR (exclusive OR) operation with specific bit values to determine the input for the next state. This feedback loop allows LFSRs to produce sequences of bits with desirable properties, such as long periods and good statistical properties.

Origin of Linear-feedback Shift Register

The concept of shift registers dates back to the early days of computing, but the specific idea of using linear feedback to generate pseudorandom sequences emerged in the mid-20th century. In 1949, mathematician John von Neumann first described the concept of a shift register with feedback in his work on the Monte Carlo method for generating random numbers. Later, in the 1960s, engineers and mathematicians further developed the theory and practical implementations of LFSRs for various applications in digital electronics and cryptography.

Practical Application of Linear-feedback Shift Register

One practical application of LFSRs is in the generation of pseudorandom sequences for use in communication systems, cryptography, and error detection and correction. For instance, LFSRs are commonly employed in stream ciphers, a type of encryption algorithm used to secure data transmission over networks. These ciphers use the pseudorandom sequences generated by LFSRs to encrypt plaintext into ciphertext, ensuring confidentiality and data integrity.

Benefits of Linear-feedback Shift Register

LFSRs offer several benefits that make them widely used in digital design:

Efficiency: LFSRs are relatively simple to implement in hardware or software, requiring minimal resources compared to other random number generation techniques.

Periodicity: When properly configured, LFSRs can produce sequences with long periods, meaning the sequence repeats itself after a large number of iterations. This property is crucial for applications requiring a diverse yet deterministic sequence of bits.

Predictability: Although LFSRs generate pseudorandom sequences, their behavior is entirely deterministic and predictable given the initial state and feedback polynomial. This predictability is advantageous for debugging and testing digital systems.

Versatility: LFSRs find applications beyond random number generation, including sequence generation for pattern recognition, signal processing, and self-test circuits.


Yes, LFSRs are commonly used in cryptography, particularly in the implementation of stream ciphers for encrypting data in real-time communication systems.

The choice of parameters, including the feedback polynomial and initial state, depends on the specific requirements of your application, such as the desired period length and statistical properties of the generated sequence.

While LFSRs offer simplicity and efficiency, they may not be suitable for applications requiring true randomness or cryptographic strength. Additionally, care must be taken to avoid certain configurations that can result in short periods or undesirable statistical properties in the generated sequences.


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