I'm not sure about a general introductory guide, but I can certainly
give you a vague idea.
Without DMA, any data that goes to or from memory has to be put there by
the processor. If you read from the hard disk, data going from disk to
the processor has to be read from the disk controller and written to
memory. When you write to the hard disk, the processor reads data from
memory and sends it to the memory controller. The same thing applies to
data coming in or going out of the network card. Similarly, if you are
printing, the processor is copying data from memory to the printer. If
you have a webcam on your parallel port, the processor has to spend time
reading data from the parallel port and putting it into memory.
By this time you must be getting the general idea. If your program is
donig a lot of IO (input from and output to peripherals), it is going to
spend a lot of time simply copying data. In the case of the parallel
port things are even worse because each access the parallel port takes
about a microsecond. So each time you access it, your fancy gigahertz
processor is waiting 1000 cycles for the access to take place.
What is particularly frustrating, is that copying data from one place to
another is a pretty brain dead activity that completely under-utilizes
your processor (because it spends all its time waiting for data to come
from memory or a peripheral). The activity is so simple, that it is
possible for a much simpler component to take care of it, leaving the
processor to its more important business. That much simpler component is
the DMA (though it isn't really a standalone component anymore).
The DMA's job in life is to copy data back and forth between memory and
peripherals (it also sometimes does other things like helping refresh
dynamic memory). It is a relatively small piece of hardware, unlike the
processor, so it doesn't cost much to have it occupied by such a mundane
task. So now when your processor wants to send data from memory to disk,
it simply tells the DMA where to get the data and where to send it, and
the DMA does all the tedious work. In the meantime, the processor is
free to take care of all the other important tasks that you have for it
Does this answer your questions, or did you want something more
Quoted from Bob Tanner on Fri, May 02, 2003 at 04:23:18PM -0500.
> Can someone point me to more information on what dma does?
> Prefer it to be in relationship to the parallel port, but a newbies guide to
> dma (in general) would be acceptable too.
> I have to admit, I do not fully understand what dma does or what it's
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