Using Interrupt 21h, Function 3Fh to Read the Keyboard

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Summary

The "MS-DOS Programmer's Reference" (published by Microsoft Press) versions 5 and 6, as well as other MS-DOS programming reference books, state that Interrupt 21h, Function 0Ah (Buffer Keyboard Input) has been superseded by Function 3Fh (Read File or Device). Function 3Fh is more general purpose and easier to use for some programming tasks, but may cause some apparently unusual behavior when used to read from device 0 (stdin--the console or keyboard).



Function 3Fh uses a system buffer when reading from a device and then transfers the desired number of characters into a memory buffer specified by the calling program. The buffer used by Function 3Fh is not the same as that used by MS-DOS or by other functions that read from the keyboard (Functions 01h, 06h, 07h, 08h, 0Ah, and 0Ch). Function 3Fh moves characters from the input buffer to the program supplied data area either until the requested number of characters have been read or, if reading from the keyboard, until a carriage return is reached. When more characters than requested are entered from the keyboard, the requested number are returned to the program, but the input buffer is not flushed. This may cause subsequent read operations to return with invalid or undesired data. This can even occur between separate instances of program execution.


The sample shown below illustrates this, and shows how to clear the buffer by reading until a linefeed character has been found.

More Information

The sample prompts for input, reads up to 10 characters, and displays the characters read. If more than 10 characters are entered, only the first 10 will be displayed. If the program is then executed a second time, the remaining characters (or the next 10, whichever is less) will be immediately displayed. The prompt will be given but the program will not wait for input.


If the commented lines following the label clearbuf are added into the program, the input buffer will be cleared and the program will work as expected. Note that the code to clear the buffer reads until it finds a linefeed character (0Ah) rather than a carriage return (0Dh). Experimentation shows that if the linefeed is left in the buffer, the program will wait for another carriage return after running the loop, and will not read any data the next time it is run. Function 3Fh does not return the carriage return/linefeed (CR/LF) pair to the calling program when reading multiple bytes, but does return them when reading 1 byte at a time, and therefore both must be cleared as shown.


Also note that possible read and write errors are being ignored by this code. Refer to "MS-DOS Programmer's Reference" for information on possible errors and how to detect them.


The "MS-DOS Programmer's Reference" is available through Microsoft Press by calling 1-(800)-MSPRESS.

References

"MS-DOS Programmer's Reference," Version 5, Microsoft Press, 1991. Page 282.


"MS-DOS Programmer's Reference," Version 6, Microsoft Press, 1993. Pages 278-9.


Sample Code

; Assemble options needed:  none
.MODEL SMALL,C
.STACK
.DATA
mybuf BYTE 10 DUP (' ')
pstring BYTE 0Dh,0Ah,"enter data: "
ostring BYTE 0Dh,0Ah,"data entered: "

abyte BYTE ?
.CODE
.STARTUP
; prompt user
mov bx, 1 ; stdout
mov cx, LENGTHOF pstring
mov dx, SEG pstring
mov ds, dx
mov dx, OFFSET pstring
mov ah, 40h
INT 21h
; ignore possible errors

; read data
mov bx, 0 ; stdin
mov cx, LENGTHOF mybuf
mov dx, SEG mybuf
mov ds, dx
mov dx, OFFSET mybuf
mov ah, 3Fh
INT 21h
; ignore possible errors

mov bx, 1 ; stdout
mov cx, LENGTHOF ostring
mov dx, SEG ostring
mov ds, dx
mov dx, OFFSET ostring
mov ah, 40h
INT 21h
; ignore possible errors

mov bx, 1 ; stdout
mov cx, LENGTHOF mybuf
mov dx, SEG mybuf
mov ds, dx
mov dx, OFFSET mybuf
mov ah, 40h
INT 21h
; ignore possible errors

; clear buffer

mov bx, 0 ; stdin
mov cx, 1
mov dx, SEG abyte
mov ds, dx
mov dx, OFFSET abyte
mov ah, 3Fh
INT 21h
mov al, abyte
cmp al, 0Ah
jne clearbuf

.EXIT
END
Properties

Article ID: 113058 - Last Review: Oct 14, 2003 - Revision: 1

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