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In computing, the Virtual Control Program Interface (VCPI) is a specification published in 1989 by Phar Lap Software that allows a DOS program to run in protected mode, granting access to many features of the processor not available in real mode. It was supplanted by DOS Protected Mode Interface shortly after being introduced, due in large part to VCPI's inability to work in Windows 3.0's protected mode.


Developed in cooperation with Quarterdeck Office Systems, VCPI is provided by an expanded memory manager in DOS (e.g. CEMM, QEMM, later EMM386). It was eclipsed by DOS Protected Mode Interface, most notably because it was not supported for DOS programs run in Windows 3.0's native protected mode (called 386 enhanced mode) and because VCPI runs programs in Ring 0, which defeated the purpose of x86 protection. It also did not work with OS/2 2.0 and later. Windows 3.x only supported VCPI in Standard and Real modes. Earlier Windows/386 2.1 was not compatible with DOS extenders at all.

VCPI also had a comparatively limited scope in that it allowed a protected mode DOS program to run only when the program was started from DOS already running inside a virtual 8086 mode task. (This was typically accomplished through a memory manager operating as a virtual [mode] control program for the processor.) Because the virtual 8086 mode isolates programs from the hardware, it is not possible for a program to switch to protected mode without some support from the control program.

In the late 1980s an extended version of the specification XVCPI addressed some of these problems and was implemented or used by a small number of products including INTERACTIVE UNIX and Digital Research operating systems.

See also


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