Chapter 19. Real-Time Systems

Our coverage of operating-system issues thus far has focused mainly on general-purpose computing systems (for example, desktop and server systems). In this chapter, we turn our attention to real-time computing systems. The requirements of real-time systems differ from those of many of the systems we have described, largely because real-time systems must produce results within certain deadlines. In this chapter we provide an overview of real-time computer systems and describe how real-time operating systems must be constructed to meet the stringent timing requirements of these systems.


A real-time system is a computer system that requires not only that the computing results be "correct" but also that the results be produced within a specified deadline period. Results produced after the deadline has passed— even if correct—may be of no real value. To illustrate, consider an autonomous robot that delivers mail in an office complex. If its vision-control system identifies a wall after the robot has walked into it, despite correctly identifying the wall, the system has not met its requirement. Contrast this timing requirement with the much less strict demands of other systems. In an interactive desktop ...

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