It would be nice if we could perform one action at a time and perform it well, but that is usually difficult to do. The human body performs a great variety of operations in parallelor, as we will say throughout this chapter, concurrently. Respiration, blood circulation and digestion, for example, can occur concurrently. All the sensessight, touch, smell, taste and hearingcan be employed at once. Computers, too, perform operations concurrently. It is common for your computer to be compiling a program, sending a file to a printer and receiving electronic mail messages over a network concurrently.

Ironically, most programming languages do not enable programmers to specify concurrent activities. Rather, programming languages generally provide only a simple set of control statements that enable programmers to perform one action at a time, proceeding to the next action after the previous one has finished. Historically, the type of concurrency that computers perform today generally has been implemented as operating system "primitives" available only to highly experienced "systems programmers."

The Ada programming language, developed by the United States Department of Defense, made concurrency primitives widely available to defense contractors building military command-and-control systems. However, Ada has not been widely used in academia and commercial industry.

The .NET Framework Class Library provides concurrency primitives. You specify that applications contain "threads of execution," each of which designates a portion of a program that may execute concurrently with other threadsthis capability is called multithreading. Multithreading is available to all .NET programming languages, including C#, Visual Basic and Visual C++. The .NET Framework Class Library includes multithreading capabilities in namespace System.Threading.

Performance Tip 15 1

A problem with single-threaded applications is that lengthy activities must complete before other activities can begin. In a multithreaded application, threads can be distributed across multiple processors (if they are available) so that multiple tasks are performed concurrently, allowing the application to operate more efficiently. Multithreading can also increase performance on singleprocessor systems that simulate concurrencywhen one thread cannot proceed, another can use the processor.

We discuss many applications of concurrent programming. When programs download large files, such as audio clips or video clips over the Internet, users do not want to wait until an entire clip downloads before starting the playback. To solve this problem, we can put multiple threads to workone thread downloads a clip, while another plays the clip. These activities proceed concurrently. To avoid choppy playback, we synchronize the threads so that the player thread does not begin until there is a sufficient amount of the clip in memory to keep the player thread busy.

Another example of multithreading is the CLR's automatic garbage collection. C and C++ require programmers to reclaim dynamically allocated memory explicitly. The CLR provides a garbage-collector thread, which reclaims dynamically allocated memory that is no longer needed.

Good Programming Practice 15 1

Set an object reference to null when the program no longer needs that object. This enables the garbage collector to determine at the earliest possible moment that the object can be garbage collected. If such an object has other references to it, that object cannot be collected.

Writing multithreaded programs can be tricky. Although the human mind can perform functions concurrently, people find it difficult to jump between parallel "trains of thought." To see why multithreading can be difficult to program and understand, try the following experiment: Open three books to page 1 and try reading the books concurrently. Read a few words from the first book, then read a few words from the second book, then read a few words from the third book, then loop back and read the next few words from the first book, etc. After this experiment, you will appreciate the challenges of multithreadingswitching between books, reading briefly, remembering your place in each book, moving the book you are reading closer so you can see it, pushing books you are not reading aside and, amid all this chaos, trying to comprehend the content of the books!

Thread States Life Cycle of a Thread



    Introduction to Computers, the Internet and Visual C#

    Introduction to the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition IDE

    Introduction to C# Applications

    Introduction to Classes and Objects

    Control Statements: Part 1

    Control Statements: Part 2

    Methods: A Deeper Look


    Classes and Objects: A Deeper Look

    Object-Oriented Programming: Inheritance

    Polymorphism, Interfaces & Operator Overloading

    Exception Handling

    Graphical User Interface Concepts: Part 1

    Graphical User Interface Concepts: Part 2


    Strings, Characters and Regular Expressions

    Graphics and Multimedia

    Files and Streams

    Extensible Markup Language (XML)

    Database, SQL and ADO.NET

    ASP.NET 2.0, Web Forms and Web Controls

    Web Services

    Networking: Streams-Based Sockets and Datagrams

    Searching and Sorting

    Data Structures



    Appendix A. Operator Precedence Chart

    Appendix B. Number Systems

    Appendix C. Using the Visual Studio 2005 Debugger

    Appendix D. ASCII Character Set

    Appendix E. Unicode®

    Appendix F. Introduction to XHTML: Part 1

    Appendix G. Introduction to XHTML: Part 2

    Appendix H. HTML/XHTML Special Characters

    Appendix I. HTML/XHTML Colors

    Appendix J. ATM Case Study Code

    Appendix K. UML 2: Additional Diagram Types

    Appendix L. Simple Types


    Visual C# How to Program
    Visual C# 2005 How to Program (2nd Edition)
    ISBN: 0131525239
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2004
    Pages: 600

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