pty -- STREAMS pseudo-terminal driver


The pseudo-terminal subsystem (pty) supports a pair of STREAMS-based devices called the master device and the slave device. The slave device provides processes with an interface that is identical to the terminal interface. However, whereas all devices that provide the terminal interface have some kind of hardware device behind them, the slave device has another process manipulating it through the master half of the pseudo terminal. Anything written on the master device is given to the slave as input and anything written on the slave device is presented as input on the master side.

The master device, called ptm, is accessed through the clone driver and is the controlling part of the system. The slave device, called pts, works with a line discipline module such as ldterm(7), a hardware emulation module such as ptem(7), and optionally with an ioctl translation module such as ttcompat(7) to provide a terminal interface to the user process. An optional packetizing module called pckt(7) is also provided to support ``packet mode'' when it is pushed on the master side.

The master device is opened via the open(2) system call with /dev/ptmx as the device to be opened. The clone open finds the next available minor device for that major device; a master device is available only if it and its corresponding slave device are not already open.

When the master device is opened, the corresponding slave device is automatically locked out, and no user may open that device until it is unlocked. A user may invoke grantpt (3C to change the owner and permissions of the slave device to that of the user who is running the process. Once the permissions have been changed, the device may be unlocked by the user. Only the owner or a privileged user can access the slave device. The user then invokes unlockpt (3C to unlock the slave device. The user calls ptsname (3C to get the name of the slave device, and then invokes the open system call with the name that was returned by the function.

After both the master and slave devices have been opened, the user has two file descriptors that provide full-duplex communication using two streams. The two streams are automatically connected. The user may then push modules onto either side of the stream. The user also must push the ptem and ldterm modules onto the slave side to get terminal semantics.

The master and slave devices pass all STREAMS messages to their adjacent queues. Only M_FLUSH(D7str) needs some processing. Because the read queue of one side is connected to the write queue of the other, the FLUSHR flag is changed to FLUSHW and vice versa.

When the master device is closed, an M_HANGUP(D7str) message is sent to the slave device, which renders the device unusable. The process on the slave side gets the errno ENXIO when attempting to write on that stream, but it can read any data remaining on the stream head read queue. When all the data have been read, read returns 0, indicating that the stream can no longer be used.

On the last close of the slave device, a zero-length message is sent to the master side. When the master side application issues a read and 0 is returned, the user decides whether to issue a close, which dismantles the pseudo-terminal, or not close the master device so that the pseudo-tty subsystem will be available for another user to open the slave device.


The master device supports the ISPTM and UNLKPT ioctls that are used by the grantpt, unlockpt, and ptsname functions.

The format of these commands is:

   int ioctl (int fd, int command, int arg);
where command is either ISPTM or UNLKPT and arg is 0.

The master side application is responsible for detecting an interrupt character and sending an interrupt signal SIGINT to the process on the slave side. This can be done as follows:

   ioctl (fd, TIOCSIGNAL, SIGINT);
where SIGINT is defined in the header file signal.h header file.


pseudo-terminal master device

pseudo-terminal slave devices


ldterm(7), pckt(7), pseudo(1), ptem(7), ttcompat(7),

© 2004 The SCO Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
UnixWare 7 Release 7.1.4 - 25 April 2004