Block and Character Devices in Operating System

The block-device interface captures all the aspects necessary for accessing disk drives and other block-oriented devices. The device is expected to understand commands such as read() and write(). If it is a random-access device, it is also expected to have a seek() command to specify which block to transfer next. Applications normally access such a device through a file-system interface. We can see that read(), write(), and seek() capture the essential behaviors of block-storage devices, so that applications are insulated from the low-level differences among those devices.

A keyboard is an example of a device that is accessed through a character stream interface. The basic system calls in this interface enable an application to get() or put() one character. On top of this interface, libraries can be built that offer line-at-a-time access, with buffering and editing services (for example, when a user types a backspace, the preceding character is removed from the input stream). This style of access is convenient for input devices such as keyboards, mice, and modems that produce data for input “spontaneously” —that is, at times that cannot necessarily be predicted by the application. This access style is also good for output devices such as printers and audio boards, which naturally fit the concept of a linear stream of bytes

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