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Long Time in Coming

Just about everything in the PC architecture has been upgraded -- much better microprocessors, more elaborate OS's, more memory, a much higher bandwidth bus architecture, etc.  However, one bit of 1980's era design still sits at the heart of the computer - the BIOS.  Sure, manufacturers have agreed to some extensions (particularly plug and play) and motherboard makers add in extensions of their own (e.g. for overclocking) but the basic BIOS architecture and functionality, which sits underneath the OS and gets things started when you flip the "on" switch, is basically unchanged. 

A few years ago, Intel proposed a replacement, but ironically only Apple has picked up on the BIOS replacement called EFI.  Now, it appears, at least one leading motherboard manufacturer for PC's is putting a toe in the water:

The specification allows for a considerable change in what can be implemented at this very low level.

EFI is a specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. EFI is intended as a significantly improved replacement of the old legacy BIOS firmware interface used by modern PCs....

Graphical menus, standard mouse point-and-click operations, pre-operating-system application support such as web browsers, mail applications and media players, will all feature heavily within EFI.

Posted on January 25, 2008 at 08:39 AM | Permalink


Gotta go with Linus on this one:

So EFI has this cool shell, a loadable driver framework, and other nice
features. Where "nice" obviously means "much more complex than the simple
things they designed in the late seventies back when people were stupid
and just wanted things to work".

Not that I'd ever claim that the BIOS is wonderful either, but at least
everybody knows that the BIOS is just a bootloader, and doesn't try to
make it anything else.

The absolutely biggest advantage of a BIOS is that it's _so_ inconvenient
and obviously oldfashioned, that you have to be crazy to want to do
anything serious in it. Real mode, 16-bit code is actually an _advantage_
in that sense. People know how to treat it, and don't get any ideas about
it being some grandiose framework for anything else than "just load the OS
and get the hell out of there".

Posted by: Micah | Jan 26, 2008 9:52:45 AM

So why not Open Firmware (IEEE-1275)? If it was good enough for Unix workstation vendors and Apple (at least during the PowerPC days), it ought to be good enough for PCs.

Posted by: eCurmudgeon | Jan 26, 2008 7:43:13 PM

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