Use of BIOS calls in modern code (Was: Re: [OpenBIOS] Why protected mode?)

Timothy J. Massey tmassey at
Fri Jul 16 11:59:57 CEST 1999

On Fri, 16 Jul 1999 14:54:01 +0200 (CEST), Matthias W„chter wrote:

>Currently we have the same BIOS interface as the 8086 (except
>for the INT16 Bios extensions which are not used by some OSes, sadly,
>Linux too in opposition to NT and Win98).

Linux can't really take advantage of *any* BIOS routines (OK, outside of the
loader and such), even when Win98 can.  The reason is simple:  Linux is
cross-platform.  Alphas don't have the same BIOS as PC's, which don't have
the same BIOS as Macs which don't have the same BIOS as a Sun.  So how could
Linux use a BIOS routine that isn't commonly available.

Now, there is a way that Linux could make use of BIOS calls (if they really
wanted to) without losing cross-platform objectives:  let the C compiler
libraries use BIOS calls.  But there, you run into the same problem.  The C
compiler used for Linux (GCC) is cross-platform, too.  So, they don't want
to use the BIOS, either!

In any kind of portable OS, any feature that isn't available on all systems
is a liability.  It's something that will either increase the difficulty of
porting the code to a system that doesn't support some feature, or requires
additional effort to add that functionality to a particular port.

Basically, the BIOS in a modern computer is a hardware configurator and boot
loader.  Personally, I think that that's fine.  I'm not looking for a BIOS
to do anything more.

Tim Massey

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