Concurrency vs Multi-threading vs Asynchronous Programming : Explained

Recently, I was speaking in an event and I asked a question about Asynchronous programming to the audience, I found that many were confused between multi-threading and asynchronous programming and for few, it was same. So, I thought of explaining these terms including an additional term Concurrency. Here, there are two completely different concepts involved, First – Synchronous and Asynchronous programming model and second – Single threaded and multi-threaded environments. Each programming model (Synchronous and Asynchronous) can run in single threaded and multi-threaded environment. Let’s discuss each in detail.

Synchronous Programming model – In this programming model, A thread is assigned to one task and starts working on it. Once the task completes then it is available for the next task. In this model, it cannot leave the executing task in mid to take up another task. Let’s discuss how this model works in single and multi-threaded environments.

Single Threaded – If we have couple of tasks to be worked on and the current system provides just a single thread, then tasks are assigned to the thread one by one. It can be pictorially depicted as

singlethreadedHere we can see that we have a thread (Thread 1 ) and four tasks to be completed. Thread starts workingon the tasks one by one and completes all. (The order in which tasks will be taken up, does not affect the execution, we can have different algorithm which can define the priorities of tasks)

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