8. Intel/AMD x86 Specific Information

This chapter discusses the Intel x86 architecture dependencies in this port of RTEMS. This family has multiple implementations from multiple vendors and suffers more from having evolved rather than being designed for growth.

For information on the i386 processor, refer to the following documents:

  • 386 Programmer’s Reference Manual, Intel, Order No. 230985-002.

  • 386 Microprocessor Hardware Reference Manual, Intel, Order No. 231732-003.

  • 80386 System Software Writer’s Guide, Intel, Order No. 231499-001.

  • 80387 Programmer’s Reference Manual, Intel, Order No. 231917-001.

8.1. CPU Model Dependent Features

This section presents the set of features which vary across i386 implementations and are of importance to RTEMS. The set of CPU model feature macros are defined in the cpukit/score/cpu/i386/i386.h based upon the particular CPU model specified on the compilation command line.

8.1.1. bswap Instruction

The macro I386_HAS_BSWAP is set to 1 to indicate that this CPU model has the bswap instruction which endian swaps a thirty-two bit quantity. This instruction appears to be present in all CPU models i486’s and above.

8.2. Calling Conventions

8.2.1. Processor Background

The i386 architecture supports a simple yet effective call and return mechanism. A subroutine is invoked via the call (call) instruction. This instruction pushes the return address on the stack. The return from subroutine (ret) instruction pops the return address off the current stack and transfers control to that instruction. It is is important to note that the i386 call and return mechanism does not automatically save or restore any registers. It is the responsibility of the high-level language compiler to define the register preservation and usage convention.

8.2.2. Calling Mechanism

All RTEMS directives are invoked using a call instruction and return to the user application via the ret instruction.

8.2.3. Register Usage

As discussed above, the call instruction does not automatically save any registers. RTEMS uses the registers EAX, ECX, and EDX as scratch registers. These registers are not preserved by RTEMS directives therefore, the contents of these registers should not be assumed upon return from any RTEMS directive.

8.2.4. Parameter Passing

RTEMS assumes that arguments are placed on the current stack before the directive is invoked via the call instruction. The first argument is assumed to be closest to the return address on the stack. This means that the first argument of the C calling sequence is pushed last. The following pseudo-code illustrates the typical sequence used to call a RTEMS directive with three (3) arguments:

push third argument
push second argument
push first argument
invoke directive
remove arguments from the stack

The arguments to RTEMS are typically pushed onto the stack using a push instruction. These arguments must be removed from the stack after control is returned to the caller. This removal is typically accomplished by adding the size of the argument list in bytes to the stack pointer.

8.3. Memory Model

8.3.1. Flat Memory Model

RTEMS supports the i386 protected mode, flat memory model with paging disabled. In this mode, the i386 automatically converts every address from a logical to a physical address each time it is used. The i386 uses information provided in the segment registers and the Global Descriptor Table to convert these addresses. RTEMS assumes the existence of the following segments:

  • a single code segment at protection level (0) which contains all application and executive code.

  • a single data segment at protection level zero (0) which contains all application and executive data.

The i386 segment registers and associated selectors must be initialized when the initialize_executive directive is invoked. RTEMS treats the segment registers as system registers and does not modify or context switch them.

This i386 memory model supports a flat 32-bit address space with addresses ranging from 0x00000000 to 0xFFFFFFFF (4 gigabytes). Each address is represented by a 32-bit value and is byte addressable. The address may be used to reference a single byte, half-word (2-bytes), or word (4 bytes).

8.4. Interrupt Processing

Although RTEMS hides many of the processor dependent details of interrupt processing, it is important to understand how the RTEMS interrupt manager is mapped onto the processor’s unique architecture. Discussed in this chapter are the the processor’s response and control mechanisms as they pertain to RTEMS.

8.4.1. Vectoring of Interrupt Handler

Although the i386 supports multiple privilege levels, RTEMS and all user software executes at privilege level 0. This decision was made by the RTEMS designers to enhance compatibility with processors which do not provide sophisticated protection facilities like those of the i386. This decision greatly simplifies the discussion of i386 processing, as one need only consider interrupts without privilege transitions.

Upon receipt of an interrupt the i386 automatically performs the following actions:

  • pushes the EFLAGS register

  • pushes the far address of the interrupted instruction

  • vectors to the interrupt service routine (ISR).

A nested interrupt is processed similarly by the i386.

8.4.2. Interrupt Stack Frame

The structure of the Interrupt Stack Frame for the i386 which is placed on the interrupt stack by the processor in response to an interrupt is as follows:

Old EFLAGS Register



Old CS




8.4.3. Interrupt Levels

Although RTEMS supports 256 interrupt levels, the i386 only supports two - enabled and disabled. Interrupts are enabled when the interrupt-enable flag (IF) in the extended flags (EFLAGS) is set. Conversely, interrupt processing is inhibited when the IF is cleared. During a non-maskable interrupt, all other interrupts, including other non-maskable ones, are inhibited.

RTEMS interrupt levels 0 and 1 such that level zero (0) indicates that interrupts are fully enabled and level one that interrupts are disabled. All other RTEMS interrupt levels are undefined and their behavior is unpredictable.

8.4.4. Interrupt Stack

The i386 family does not support a dedicated hardware interrupt stack. On this processor, RTEMS allocates and manages a dedicated interrupt stack. As part of vectoring a non-nested interrupt service routine, RTEMS switches from the stack of the interrupted task to a dedicated interrupt stack. When a non-nested interrupt returns, RTEMS switches back to the stack of the interrupted stack. The current stack pointer is not altered by RTEMS on nested interrupt.

8.5. Default Fatal Error Processing

The default fatal error handler for this architecture disables processor interrupts, places the error code in EAX, and executes a HLT instruction to halt the processor.

8.6. Symmetric Multiprocessing

SMP is not supported.

8.7. Thread-Local Storage

Thread-local storage is supported.

8.8. Board Support Packages

8.8.1. System Reset

An RTEMS based application is initiated when the i386 processor is reset. When the i386 is reset,

  • The EAX register is set to indicate the results of the processor’s power-up self test. If the self-test was not executed, the contents of this register are undefined. Otherwise, a non-zero value indicates the processor is faulty and a zero value indicates a successful self-test.

  • The DX register holds a component identifier and revision level. DH contains 3 to indicate an i386 component and DL contains a unique revision level indicator.

  • Control register zero (CR0) is set such that the processor is in real mode with paging disabled. Other portions of CR0 are used to indicate the presence of a numeric coprocessor.

  • All bits in the extended flags register (EFLAG) which are not permanently set are cleared. This inhibits all maskable interrupts.

  • The Interrupt Descriptor Register (IDTR) is set to point at address zero.

  • All segment registers are set to zero.

  • The instruction pointer is set to 0x0000FFF0. The first instruction executed after a reset is actually at 0xFFFFFFF0 because the i386 asserts the upper twelve address until the first intersegment (FAR) JMP or CALL instruction. When a JMP or CALL is executed, the upper twelve address lines are lowered and the processor begins executing in the first megabyte of memory.

Typically, an intersegment JMP to the application’s initialization code is placed at address 0xFFFFFFF0.

8.8.2. Processor Initialization

This initialization code is responsible for initializing all data structures required by the i386 in protected mode and for actually entering protected mode. The i386 must be placed in protected mode and the segment registers and associated selectors must be initialized before the initialize_executive directive is invoked.

The initialization code is responsible for initializing the Global Descriptor Table such that the i386 is in the thirty-two bit flat memory model with paging disabled. In this mode, the i386 automatically converts every address from a logical to a physical address each time it is used. For more information on the memory model used by RTEMS, please refer to the Memory Model chapter in this document.

Since the processor is in real mode upon reset, the processor must be switched to protected mode before RTEMS can execute. Before switching to protected mode, at least one descriptor table and two descriptors must be created. Descriptors are needed for a code segment and a data segment. ( This will give you the flat memory model.) The stack can be placed in a normal read/write data segment, so no descriptor for the stack is needed. Before the GDT can be used, the base address and limit must be loaded into the GDTR register using an LGDT instruction.

If the hardware allows an NMI to be generated, you need to create the IDT and a gate for the NMI interrupt handler. Before the IDT can be used, the base address and limit for the idt must be loaded into the IDTR register using an LIDT instruction.

Protected mode is entered by setting thye PE bit in the CR0 register. Either a LMSW or MOV CR0 instruction may be used to set this bit. Because the processor overlaps the interpretation of several instructions, it is necessary to discard the instructions from the read-ahead cache. A JMP instruction immediately after the LMSW changes the flow and empties the processor if intructions which have been pre-fetched and/or decoded. At this point, the processor is in protected mode and begins to perform protected mode application initialization.

If the application requires that the IDTR be some value besides zero, then it should set it to the required value at this point. All tasks share the same i386 IDTR value. Because interrupts are enabled automatically by RTEMS as part of the initialize_executive directive, the IDTR MUST be set properly before this directive is invoked to insure correct interrupt vectoring. If processor caching is to be utilized, then it should be enabled during the reset application initialization code. The reset code which is executed before the call to initialize_executive has the following requirements:

For more information regarding the i386 data structures and their contents, refer to Intel’s 386 Programmer’s Reference Manual.