The PC Card bus has two basic operating modes: ``memory-only'' and ``memory and IO''. The first mode was defined by the original Version 1.0 specification and only supports simple memory cards. The second mode, defined in Version 2.0, redefines a few of the memory card control signals to support IO port addressing and IO interrupt signalling.
PC Card devices have two memory spaces: ``attribute memory'' and ``common memory''. The interface can address up to 16MB of each type of memory. Attribute memory is typically used for holding descriptive information and configuration registers. Common memory may include the bulk storage of a memory card, or device buffers in the case of IO cards. All cards that are compliant with the version 2.0 PC Card specification should have a Card Information Structure (or ``CIS'') in attribute memory, which describes the card and how it should be configured.
Separate control signals allow cards to signal their operating status to the host. These signals include card detect, ready/busy, write protect, battery low, and battery dead.
The ``memory and IO'' interface mode allows cards to address up to 64K of IO ports. It also allows cards to signal IO interrupts, and routes one card output to the host system's speaker. In this mode, several of the memory card control signals are unavailable because those pins are used to carry the extra IO card signals. On some cards, these signals can instead be read from a special configuration register in attribute memory, the ``Pin Replacement Register''.
The socket controller serves as a bridge between PC Card devices and the system bus. There are several varieties of controllers, but all share the same basic functionality. The Socket Services software layer takes care of all the details of how to program the host controller.
The socket controller has the job of mapping windows of addresses in the host memory and IO spaces to windows of addresses in card space. All supported controllers support at least four independent memory windows and two IO windows per socket.
Each memory window is defined by a base address in the host address space, a base address in the card address space, and a window size. Some controllers differ in their alignment rules for memory windows, but all controllers will support windows whose size is at least 4K and also a power of two, and where the base address is a multiple of the window size. Each window can be programmed to point to either attribute or common memory.
IO windows differ from memory windows in that host addresses that fall within an IO window are not modified before they are passed on to an IO card. Effectively, the base addresses of the window in the host and card address spaces are always equal. IO windows also have no alignment or size restrictions; an IO window can start and end on any byte boundary in the 64K IO address space.
The PC Card bus defines a single interrupt signal from the card to the controller. The controller then has the responsibility of steering this interrupt to an appropriate interrupt request (``irq'') line. All controllers support steering card IO interrupts to essentially any free interrupt line. Because steering happens in the controller, the card itself is unaware of which interrupt it uses.
All PC Card controllers can generate interrupts in response to card status changes. These interrupts are distinct from the IO interrupts generated by an IO card, and use a separate interrupt line. Signals that can generate interrupts include card detect, ready/busy, write protect, battery low, and battery dead.