System Time

December 18, 2018

Colin Walls-December 18, 2018


The concept of time in the context of a real time operating system was introduced in an earlier article, along with an idea of the facilities associated with time that likely to be available with an RTOS.

Clock Tick

All timing facilities are driven by a hardware clock. This is simply an oscillator that generates an interrupt at regular intervals. For timing numbers to be meaningful to applications programs, the frequency of the oscillator must be known.

Clock Interrupt Service Routine

The interrupts generated by the hardware clock must be handled appropriately by an interrupt service routine (ISR), which implements all the timing facilities of an RTOS. The details of the clock ISR in Nucleus SE will be covered in a future article.

Timing Facilities

Nucleus RTOS and Nucleus SE include a number of timing facilities:

  • A tick clock – This is a simple counter that is incremented by clock ISR. In both Nucleus RTOS and Nucleus SE this counter is 32 bits wide and there are facilities for tasks to set and read its value. In Nucleus SE the tick clock is optional. This topic is discussed in more detail in the remainder of this chapter.

  • Application timers – Both Nucleus RTOS and Nucleus SE support timer objects. Their use and implementation in Nucleus SE will be discussed in detail in the next article.

  • Time slice scheduling – In Nucleus RTOS, tasks of the same priority are scheduled on a round-robin basis, but a time slice may also be applied. In Nucleus SE, a time slice scheduler is an option; this was discussed in detail in an earlier article.

  • Task sleep. A task may elect to suspend itself (go to sleep) for a specified time period. This facility was described in detail in a previous article.

  • API call timeouts – In both Nucleus RTOS and Nucleus SE a number of API calls allow a task to suspend, pending the availability of a resource. This suspension may be indefinite, or, in Nucleus RTOS, an optional timeout period may be specified. API call timeouts are not supported in Nucleus SE.


A brief word about timing accuracy is worthwhile at this point.

The precision of a timing facility is totally dependent on the frequency of the clock oscillator. For example, if a pulse is received every 10 milliseconds and an application task wants to delay for 100 milliseconds, it clearly needs to wait for 10 pulses. However, it is not known when the previous pulse occurred – it may have been just now, or it could have been nearly 10 milliseconds ago. Hence a 100-millisecond delay could be as long as (just under) 110 milliseconds.

An obvious way to solve this problem is to increase the oscillator frequency. If the pulse were to occur at 1 millisecond intervals, the 100-millisecond delay would never be longer than 101 milliseconds. The downside is that 10 times as much CPU time would be spent in the clock ISR, which is an overhead.

The system designer must determine the balance between required timer accuracy and available CPU power.

Configuring System Time

As with most aspects of Nucleus SE, the configuration of system time is primarily controlled by #define statements in nuse_config.h. The key setting is NUSE_SYSTEM_TIME_SUPPORT, which enables the facility. There is no question of specifying the number of objects – system time is simply enabled or not.

Choosing a non-zero value is the “master enable” for system time. This causes a data structure to be defined, of which more later in this article. It also activates the API enabling settings.

API Enables

Every API function (service call) in Nucleus SE has an enabling #define symbol in nuse_config.h. For system time, these are:


By default, both of these are set to FALSE, thus disabling each service call and inhibiting the inclusion of any implementation code. To configure system time for an application, you need to select the API calls that you want to use and set their enabling symbols to TRUE.

Here is an extract from the default nuse_config.h file.

#define NUSE_SYSTEM_TIME_SUPPORT FALSE    /* Enables the system
                                             tick clock */
#define NUSE_CLOCK_SET        FALSE    /* Service call enabler */
#define NUSE_CLOCK_RETRIEVE   FALSE    /* Service call enabler */

A compile time error will result if a system time API function is enabled and the system time facility has not been enabled. If your code uses an API call, which has not been enabled, a link time error will result, as no implementation code will have been included in the application.

System Time Service Calls

Nucleus RTOS supports two service calls that appertain to system time, which provide the following functionality:

  • Set the system time value. Implemented by NUSE_Clock_Set() in Nucleus SE.

  • Obtain the system time value. Implemented by NUSE_Clock_Retrieve() in Nucleus SE.

The implementation of each of these service calls is examined in detail.

Continue reading on page two, System Time Set and Obtain Services >>



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