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Programming Perl, 3rd Edition by Jon Orwant, Tom Christiansen, Larry Wall

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Chapter 17. Threads

Parallel programming is much harder than it looks. Imagine taking a recipe from a cookbook and converting it into something that several dozen chefs can work on all at the same time. You can take two approaches.

One approach is to give each chef a private kitchen, complete with its own supply of raw materials and utensils. For recipes that can be divided up into parts easily, and for foods that can be transported from kitchen to kitchen easily, this approach works well because it keeps the chefs out of each other's kitchens.

Alternatively, you can just put all the chefs into one kitchen, and let them work things out, like who gets to use the mixer when. This can get messy, especially when the meat cleavers start to fly.

These two approaches correspond to two models of parallel programming on computers. The first is the multiprocessing model typical of traditional Unix systems, in which each thread of control has its own set of resources, which taken together we call a process. The second model is the multithreading model, in which each thread of control shares resources with all other threads of control. Or doesn't share, as the case may be (and upon occasion must be).

We all know that chefs like to be in control; that's okay, because chefs need to be in control in order to accomplish what we want them to accomplish. But chefs need to be organized, one way or another.

Perl supports both models of organization. In this chapter we'll call them the process model and ...

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