Raspberry Pi IoT In C - Events & Interrupts
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Monday, 02 November 2020
Article Index
Raspberry Pi IoT In C - Events & Interrupts
Events And The BCM 2835 Library
Measuring Pulses With Events
An Edgy Button

An Edgy Button

To make the difference between reading the line to detect a change of state and using the events, let’s consider another version of our button program given earlier. In this case the GPIO line is set up for input and a message to press the button is printed. Then the program waits for 20 seconds and finally tests the state of the line. Even if the user has pressed the button lots of times during the 20 seconds, all that matters is the final state of the line as read when the sleep(20) ends:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <bcm2835.h>
#include <unistd.h>
int main(int argc, char** argv) {
    if (!bcm2835_init()) return 1;
BCM2835_GPIO_FSEL_INPT); bcm2835_gpio_set_pud(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07,
BCM2835_GPIO_PUD_UP); printf("Press button \n\r"); fflush(stdout); sleep(20); if (0 == bcm2835_gpio_lev(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07)){ printf("Button pressed \n\r"); }else{ printf("No Button press\n\r"); }; return 0;}

In other words, this program misses any button presses during the 20 second pause. Now compare this to the same program but using edge events:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <bcm2835.h>
#include <unistd.h>
int main(int argc, char** argv) {
    if (!bcm2835_init()) return 1;
BCM2835_GPIO_FSEL_INPT); bcm2835_gpio_set_pud(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07,
BCM2835_GPIO_PUD_UP); bcm2835_gpio_fen(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07); bcm2835_gpio_set_eds(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07); printf("Press button \n\r"); fflush(stdout); sleep(20); if (bcm2835_gpio_eds(RPI_BPLUS_GPIO_J8_07)) { printf("Button pressed \n\r"); } else { printf("No Button press\n\r"); }; return 0; }

In this case the GPIO line is set up as an output with a pull-up and it fires an event on the falling edge of a signal. Notice that now the if statement tests not the state of the line, but the state of the event flag. The difference is that if the user presses the button at any time during the 20-second sleep, the flag is set and the program registers the button press. The flag is set no matter what the program is doing, so instead of sleeping it could be getting on with some work, confident that it won’t miss a button press. However, it cannot know exactly when the button was pressed and it cannot know how many times the button was pressed.

Events allow you to avoid missing a single input while polling, but cannot handle multiple inputs. You could implement a full queue-based event handling system, but this would only make sense on a multi-core machine like a Pi 4 and with the thread running the event detection locked into a separate core from the rest of the program. This probably isn’t worth the effort. A more reasonable alternative is to use the interrupt abilities of the GPIO character driver.

In chapter but not in this extract:

  • Interrupts And The GPIO Character Driver
  • An Interrupt Function Using A Thread
  • How Fast Is An Interrupt? 


  • Events are a stored indication that something happened.

  • Interrupts are events that cause something to happen.

  • You can use an event with a polling loop to protect against missing input because the program is busy doing something else.

  • If an event occurs before the current event has been cleared then it might be missed. To avoid missing events, you can use an event queue which stores events in the order they happened until they are processed.

  • The BCM 2835 library supports GPIO events. You can enable a bit to be set if a GPIO line goes high, low or is high or low. Edge-triggered events are the easiest to work with.

  • If you use events then you have to turn off GPIO generated event handling or they system will crash.

  • Using events in a polling loop hardly slows things down at all.

  • You can use events to generate an interrupt that you can wait for using an epoll. To do this you need to use the GPIO character driver to provide the file that the epoll waits on.

  • The use of the GPIO character driver slows things down a lot.

  • When using epolls the thread simply waits for the interrupt to occur. If you want to continue processing until the interrupt occurs then you have to wait for the interrupt on a new thread. This is slow but it is the closest approach to a true interrupt that user mode allows.

  • The gpiod library has some commands that will wait for an event to occur and report the time stamp of the event.

  • Overall events are useful, but interrupts are not. Neither increases the throughput of a polling loop and an interrupt only decreases response time if the event is infrequent.


Raspberry Pi And The IoT In C Second Edition

By Harry Fairhead


Buy from Amazon.


  1. Why Pi For IoT?
  2. Getting Started
  3. Getting Started With The GPIO
  4. Simple Output
  5. Some Electronics
  6. Simple Input
  7. GPIO The Linux Way
       Extract 1:The Linux GPIO Driver 
  8. Advanced Input – Events, Threads, Interrupts
       Extract 1: Events & Interrupts 
  9. Pulse Width Modulation - Servos And More
       Extract 1:Basic Pulse Width Modulation 
  10. Using The I2C Bus
  11. The DHT22 Sensor Implementing A Custom Protocol
  12. Exploring - 1‑Wire Bus Basics ***NEW!
  13. Using iButtons
  14. DS18B20 Temperature Sensor
      Extract 1: The DS18B20 Temperature Sensor 
  15. The Multidrop 1‑Wire Bus
  16. The Serial Port
      Extract 1: 1-wire Via Serial 
  17. Getting Started With The SPI Bus
  18. A to D With The SPI Bus
  19. Connecting With The Web - Sockets
  20. Memory-Mapped GPIO
  21. Almost Real-Time Linux
  22. Appendix I GPIO Sysfs Interface



To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, sign up for our weekly newsletter, subscribe to the RSS feed and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.


Amazon Previews Q, Its AI-Powered Assistant

Amazon has announced Q, a generative artificial intelligence powered assistant that can be tailored to the data in a specific organization.

Microsoft Windows Announced 40 Years Ago

Although it didn't launch until 1985, Microsoft Windows was announced in November 1983. It signaled the move for users from the command line to a GUI environment, something that some programmers still [ ... ]

More News




or email your comment to: comments@i-programmer.info

Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 November 2020 )