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.
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.
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
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
Networking: Streams-Based Sockets and Datagrams
Searching and Sorting
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