Black Box Explains...IRQs, COM Ports, and Windows.
Windows® 95 normally requires each serial port to have its own unique Interrupt Request Line (IRQ). However, if you use a third-party communications driver that supports IRQ sharing, you can share interrupts. Unfortunately, data throughput will not be as high as with single interrupt port configurations.
With Windows NT®, you can share interrupts across multiple ports as long as the serial ports have an Interrupt Status Port (ISP) built into the card.
The Interrupt Service Routine, a software routine that services interrupts and requests processor time, reads the ISP and is immmediately directed to the port that has an interrupt pending. Compared to the polling method used if the serial ports don’t have an ISP, this feature can determine which port generated the interrupt up to four times more efficiently—and it almost eliminates the risk of lost data. Windows NT supports the ISP by enabling the user to configure the registry to match the card’s settings. Black Box models IC102C-R3, IC058C, and IC112C-R3 all have ISPs and come with a Windows NT setup utility to simplify installation and configuration.
If your serial port doesn’t have an ISP, the Interrupt Service Routine has to poll each port separately to determine which port generated the interrupt.