Computer Terminology
Operating Systems
iPhone 3G

What is multitasking?

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2011-11-27 10:14:40
2011-11-27 10:14:40

This is what happens when you have two or more programs running at the same time, and both are working. Your processor will allocate some resources to each program. Though it may seem that the processor is doing two things at once, it is actually switching back and forth between tasks so quickly that you and I don't notice the difference. So, in reality, the processor can only do one thing at a time. It just hops around really fast. Interesting to note that people, in reality, are unable to multitask too. Not really. Good to remember when your cellphone rings during the rush hour on the freeway.

AnswerMultitasking is doing multiple things at once; to use a famous example, "walk and chew bubble gum at the same time".

Doing (and completing) more than one task simultaneously.

Multitasking means performing more than one task, in terms of computing, it means running more than 1 processes on a single CPU. Multiple processes are queued and wait for their turn to be executed on CPU, but it appears as if they are running in parallel.

AnswerMulti-tasking is a property of an Operating System, not hardware. As implied by the other answers, multi-tasking is the ability to actively manage execution of more than one process or thread simultaneously. That is, the Operating System itself can schedule and manage multiple thread or processes running simultaneously.

If the underlying hardware cannot actually handle all the processes waiting for execution at once, a multi-tasking OS will do "time slice" sharing of the available execution elements of the hardware; it allocates a few milliseconds of time on each execution device, then forces all processes to "take their turn" on them. This switching is done fast enough that it cannot be noticed by a human, and thus it appears that the system is running all processes simultaneously.

It is entirely possible for a multi-tasking OS to be running on hardware that can actually only support a single line of execution - in fact, up until about 2000, the vast majority of PCs were of such a design.

When talking of the ability to run multiple lines of execution in hardware, the term is usually "multi-processing" or sometimes "multi-threading". Hardware with such capability is commonly labeled as "multi-core" or "hyperthreading". It is perfectly possible to run a NON-multitasking OS on top of hardware capable of multiple lines of execution, though, frankly, it would be waste of the hardware's resources.

Just to be very explicit: the ability to multitask is a function of the design of the OS, and is completely independent of the capabilities of the hardware it runs on.

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