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What are Interrupts?

Thursday, November 18th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms

What are Interrupts?

Interrupts are what your 4 year old generates every time you try to have any kind of conversation with someone (just couldn’t resist).

It’s also a computer term (surprise). Normally called Interrupt Requests (IRQ), they are basically calls made from a hardware device to get the “attention” of the CPU (similar to the way a 4 year old gets an adult’s attention, just not as annoying).

For example, if a disk drive needs to get the attention of the CPU to perform a task, it sends an “interrupt” that allows it to have access to the system.

The average computer has 16 interrupts, most of which get sucked up right away. This causes problems when you want to try to install a new piece of hardware that requires an interrupt that is already being used.

Some interrupts can be “shared”, but the best solution is probably to use USB devices whenever possible. Your USB port allows you to use tons of hardware devices with no concern about running out of interrupts. All the devices on a USB port share the port’s Interrupt Request number (see, your kindergarten teacher was right about sharing).

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