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An SR latch, constructed from a pair of cross-coupled NOR gates. In electronics, a flip-flop or latch is a circuit that has two stable states and can be used to store state information.
A flip-flop is a bistable multivibrator. The circuit can be made to change state by signals applied to one or more control inputs and will have one or two outputs. It is the basic storage element in sequential logic.
Flip-flops and latches are fundamental building blocks of digital electronics systems used in computers, communications, and many other types of systems. Flip-flops and latches are used as data storage elements. Such data storage can be used for storage of state, and such a circuit is described as sequential logic.
It can also be used for counting of pulses, and for synchronizing variably-timed input signals to some reference timing signal. Using this terminology, a latch is level-sensitive, whereas a flip-flop is edge-sensitive. The first electronic flip-flop was invented in 1918 by the British physicists William Eccles and F. The design was used in the 1943 British Colossus codebreaking computer and such circuits and their transistorized versions were common in computers even after the introduction of integrated circuits, though flip-flops made from logic gates are also common now.
Early flip-flops were known variously as trigger circuits or multivibrators. 1954 UCLA course on computer design by Montgomery Phister, and then appeared in his book Logical Design of Digital Computers.
The other names were coined by Phister. They differ slightly from some of the definitions given below. Lindley explains that he heard the story of the JK flip-flop from Eldred Nelson, who is responsible for coining the term while working at Hughes Aircraft. Flip-flops in use at Hughes at the time were all of the type that came to be known as J-K.