Special files can be of type block or character. The type indicates which kind of device driver operates the device. Drivers can be implemented to operate on both types. For example, disk drivers export a character interface for use by the fsck(1) and mkfs(1) utilities, and a block interface for use by the file system.
Associated with each special file is a device number (dev_t). A device number consists of a major number and a minor number. The major number identifies the device driver associated with the special file. The minor number is created and used by the device driver to further identify the special file. Usually, the minor number is an encoding that is used to identify which device instance the driver should access and which type of access should be performed. For example, the minor number can identify a tape device used for backup and can specify that the tape needs to be rewound when the backup operation is complete.