Interrupt

(n.) A signal informing a program that an event has occurred. When a program receives an interrupt signal, it takes a specified action (which can be to ignore the signal). Interrupt signals can cause a program to suspend itself temporarily to service the interrupt.

Interrupt signals can come from a variety of sources. For example, every keystroke generates an interrupt signal. Interrupts can also be generated by other devices, such as a printer, to indicate that some event has occurred. These are called hardware interrupts. Interrupt signals initiated by programs are called software interrupts. A software interrupt is also called a trap or an exception.

PCs support 256 types of software interrupts and 15 hardware interrupts. Each type of software interrupt is associated with an interrupt handler — a routine that takes control when the interrupt occurs. For example, when you press a key on your keyboard, this triggers a specific interrupt handler. The complete list of interrupts and associated interrupt handlers is stored in a table called the interrupt vector table, which resides in the first 1 K of addressable memory.

Also see the list of IRQ numbers in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia.

(v.)To send an interrupt signal.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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