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SPEAKER(4) NetBSD Kernel Interfaces Manual SPEAKER(4)
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speaker -- console speaker audio device driver
spkr0 at pcppi?
spkr0 at audio?
The speaker device driver allows applications to control the console
speaker on machines with a PC-like 8253 timer implementation or a synthe-
sized speaker from an audio device/soundcard.
Only one process may have this device open at any given time; open(2) and
close(2) are used to lock and relinquish it. An attempt to open(2) when
another process has the device locked will return -1 with an EBUSY error
indication. Writes to the device are interpreted as 'play strings' in a
simple ASCII melody notation. An ioctl() for tone generation at arbi-
trary frequencies is also supported.
For the pcppi device sound-generation does not monopolize the processor;
in fact, the driver spends most of its time sleeping while the PC hard-
ware is emitting tones. Other processes may emit beeps while the driver
For the audio device speaker, the speaker uses one of the virtual audio
channels. Enabling this device will also provide a keyboard bell. The
audio device used for synthesized beeps can be controlled by the
`hw.beep.device' sysctl variable.
Applications may call ioctl() on a speaker file descriptor to control the
speaker driver directly; definitions for the ioctl() interface are in
<machine/spkr.h>. The tone_t structure used in these calls has two
fields, specifying a frequency (in hz) and a duration (in 1/100ths of a
second). A frequency of zero is interpreted as a rest.
At present there are two such ioctls. SPKRTONE accepts a pointer to a
single tone structure as third argument and plays it. SPKRTUNE accepts a
pointer to the first of an array of tone structures and plays them in
continuous sequence; this array must be terminated by a final member with
a zero duration.
The play-string language is modelled on the PLAY statement conventions of
IBM BASIC 2.0. The MB, MF and X primitives of PLAY are not useful in a
UNIX environment and are omitted. The `octave-tracking' feature is also
There are 84 accessible notes numbered 1-83 in 7 octaves, each running
from C to B, numbered 0-6; the scale is equal-tempered A440 and octave 3
starts with middle C. By default, the play function emits half-second
notes with the last 1/16th second being `rest time'.
Play strings are interpreted left to right as a series of play command
groups; letter case is ignored. Play command groups are as follows:
CDEFGAB -- letters A through G cause the corresponding note to be played
in the current octave. A note letter may optionally be followed by an
accidental sign, one of # + or -; the first two of these cause it to be
sharped one half-tone, the last causes it to be flatted one half-tone.
It may also be followed by a time value number and by sustain dots (see
below). Time values are interpreted as for the L command below;.
O <n> -- if <n> is numeric, this sets the current octave. <n> may also
be one of 'L' or 'N' to enable or disable octave-tracking (it is disabled
by default). When octave-tracking is on, interpretation of a pair of
letter notes will change octaves if necessary in order to make the small-
est possible jump between notes. Thus "olbc" will be played as "olb>c",
and "olcb" as "olc<b". Octave locking is disabled for one letter note
following by >, < and O.
> -- bump the current octave up one.
< -- drop the current octave down one.
N <n> -- play note n, n being 1 to 84 or 0 for a rest of current time
value. May be followed by sustain dots.
L <n> -- sets the current time value for notes. The default is L4, quar-
ter notes. The lowest possible value is 1; values up to 64 are accepted.
L1 sets whole notes, L2 sets half notes, L4 sets quarter notes, etc..
P <n> -- pause (rest), with <n> interpreted as for L. May be followed by
sustain dots. May also be written '~'.
T <n> -- Sets the number of quarter notes per minute; default is 120.
Musical names for common tempi are:
Tempo Beats per Minute
very slow Larghissimo
very fast Prestissimo
M[LNS] -- set articulation. MN (N for normal) is the default; the last
1/8th of the note's value is rest time. You can set ML for legato (no
rest space) or MS (staccato) 1/4 rest space.
Notes (that is, CDEFGAB or N command character groups) may be followed by
sustain dots. Each dot causes the note's value to be lengthened by one-
half for each one. Thus, a note dotted once is held for 3/2 of its
undotted value; dotted twice, it is held 9/4, and three times would give
Whitespace in play strings is simply skipped and may be used to separate
This speaker device was originally for the pcppi PC timer interface.
Support was added for a synthesized device by Nathanial Sloss, first
appearing in NetBSD 8.0.
Eric S. Raymond <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Due to roundoff in the pitch tables and slop in the tone-generation and
timer hardware (neither of which was designed for precision), neither
pitch accuracy nor timings will be mathematically exact.
There is no volume control.
In play strings which are very long (longer than your system's physical
I/O blocks) note suffixes or numbers may occasionally be parsed incor-
rectly due to crossing a block boundary.
NetBSD 8.0 November 23, 2016 NetBSD 8.0