Chapter 9: Communicating with Hardware

Although playing with scull and similar toys is a good introduction to the software interface of a Linux device driver, implementing a real device requires hardware. The driver is the abstraction layer between software concepts and hardware circuitry; as such, it needs to talk with both of them. Up until now, we have examined the internals of software concepts; this chapter completes the picture by showing you how a driver can access I/O ports and I/O memory while being portable across Linux platforms.

This chapter continues in the tradition of staying as independent of specific hardware as possible. However, where specific examples are needed, we use simple digital I/O ports (such as the standard PC parallel port) to show how the I/O instructions work and normal frame-buffer video memory to show memory-mapped I/O.

We chose simple digital I/O because it is the easiest form of an input/output port. Also, the parallel port implements raw I/O and is available in most computers: data bits written to the device appear on the output pins, and voltage levels on the input pins are directly accessible by the processor. In practice, you have to connect LEDs or a printer to the port to actually see the results of a digital I/O operation, but the underlying hardware is extremely easy to use.

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