Chapter 16. Threads and Asynchronous Code

A quotation variously ascribed to A.J.P. Taylor, Arnold Toybnee, and Winston Churchill describes history as “just one thing after another.” C# code is much the same—we write sequences of statements that will be executed one after another. Loops and conditional statements spice things up a little by changing the order, but there is always an order. While individual bits of C# code behave this way, programs as a whole do not have to.

For example, web servers are able to handle multiple requests simultaneously. The user interface for a program working on a slow operation should be able to respond if the user clicks a Cancel button before that slow work is complete. And more or less any computer bought recently will have a multicore processor capable of executing multiple pieces of code simultaneously.

C# can handle this kind of concurrent work thanks to the .NET Framework’s support for multithreading and asynchronous programming. We have a wide array of concurrency tools and there are many ways to use them—each example in the previous paragraph would use a different combination of threading mechanisms. Since there are many ways to approach concurrency problems, it’s worth drawing a clear distinction between the most common reasons for using the techniques and features this chapter describes.

Perhaps the most easily understood goal is parallel execution. A computer with a multicore processor (or maybe even multiple separate processor chips) has ...

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