I/O Ports

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An I/O port is usually used as a technical term for a specific address on the x86's IO bus. This bus provides communication with devices in a fixed order and size, and was used as an alternative to memory access. On many other architectures, there is no predefined bus for such communication and all communication with hardware is done via memory-mapped IO. This also increasingly happens on modern x86 hardware.


Looking for a list of ports

As an operating system developer, you should not be looking for this. There are few devices that are fairly consistent on PC based hardware, but most ports are claimed by plugin cards you might not have and some are even assigned via PNP which means that any port could be used for the device in question. If you want access to a device, you will need to look up the details for the device in question, and if some fixed port is involved, it will tell you. It is not technically feasible to have a complete mapping of ports to devices as you won't get access to it.

Port abuse

A few devices were made cheap and don't decode all address bits of the I/O port in question (only the bottom 12 or 14). That means that there are up to sixteen port addresses mapping to the same device. Similarly, some devices have chosen to avoid conflict with such devices by using a sparse register file. The bottom bits would be defined as constant, and the top bits would instead be used for the index. You'd get ports number 0x82E8, 0x84E8, 0x86E8 and so on. Such ISA devices are typically prone to interfering with PCI assigned IO addresses due to their spread.

Modern implementations of old devices (typically IDE and VGA controllers) have an implementation that is mentioned to be plug-and-play with moving registers, but they are still able to listen to legacy ports and respond accordingly.

The list

If you've found a port number and you are still wondering what it's meant to do, here's a list of the most common ports:

Port range Summary
0x0000-0x001F The first legacy DMA controller, often used for transfers to floppies.
0x0020-0x0021 The first Programmable Interrupt Controller
0x0022-0x0023 Access to the Model-Specific Registers of Cyrix processors.
0x0040-0x0047 The PIT (Programmable Interval Timer)
0x0060-0x0064 The "8042" PS/2 Controller or its predecessors, dealing with keyboards and mice.
0x0070-0x0071 The CMOS and RTC registers
0x0080-0x008F The DMA (Page registers)
0x0092 The location of the fast A20 gate register
0x00A0-0x00A1 The second PIC
0x00C0-0x00DF The second DMA controller, often used for soundblasters
0x00E9 Home of the Port E9 Hack. Used on some emulators to directly send text to the hosts' console.
0x0170-0x0177 The secondary ATA harddisk controller.
0x01F0-0x01F7 The primary ATA harddisk controller.
0x0278-0x027A Parallel port
0x02F8-0x02FF Second serial port
0x03B0-0x03DF The range used for the IBM VGA, its direct predecessors, as well as any modern video card in legacy mode.
0x03F0-0x03F7 Floppy disk controller
0x03F8-0x03FF First serial port

See Also

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