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Introduction to Multi-Threaded, Multi-Core and Parallel Programming concepts

May 17, 2013 7 comments

In this article I’m going to present a gentle and modernized introduction to multi-threaded and parallel programming. While there are no concrete examples in this overview, I’m going to cover the general concepts and terminology, as well as an overview of the tools available to you as a developer to leverage multi-threaded techniques in our modern era of programming.

What is multi-threaded programming?

Single-threaded programs execute one line of code at a time, then move onto the next line in sequential order (except for branches, function calls etc.). This is generally the default behaviour when you write code. Multi-threaded programs are executing from two or more locations in your program at the same time (or at least, with the illusion of running at the same time). For example, suppose you want to perform a long file download from the internet, but don’t want to keep the user waiting while this happens. Imagine how inconvenient it would be if we couldn’t browse other web pages while waiting for files to download! So, we create a new thread (in the browser program for example) to do the download. In the meantime, the main original thread keeps processing mouse clicks and keyboard input so you can continue using the browser. When the file download completes, the main thread is signaled so it knows about it and can notify the user visually, and the thread performing the download closes down. Read more…

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