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PERLOTHRTUT(1)         Perl Programmers Reference Guide         PERLOTHRTUT(1)

       perlothrtut - old tutorial on threads in(1,8) Perl

       WARNING: This tutorial describes the old-style thread model that was
       introduced in(1,8) release 5.005. This model is now deprecated, and will be
       removed, probably in(1,8) version(1,3,5) 5.10. The interfaces described here were
       considered experimental, and are likely to be buggy.

       For information about the new interpreter threads ("ithreads") model,
       see the perlthrtut tutorial, and the threads and threads::shared mod-

       You are strongly encouraged to migrate any existing threads code to the
       new model as soon as possible.

What Is A Thread Anyway?
       A thread is a flow of control through a program with a single execution

       Sounds an awful lot like a process, doesn't it? Well, it should.
       Threads are one of the pieces of a process.  Every process has at least
       one thread and, up until now, every process running Perl had only one
       thread.  With 5.005, though, you can create extra threads.  We're going
       to show you how, when, and why.

Threaded Program Models
       There are three basic ways that you can structure a threaded program.
       Which model you choose depends on what you need your program to do.
       For many non-trivial threaded programs you'll need to choose different
       models for different pieces of your program.


       The boss/worker model usually has one `boss' thread and one or more
       `worker' threads.  The boss thread gathers or generates tasks that need
       to be done, then parcels those tasks out to the appropriate worker

       This model is common in(1,8) GUI and server programs, where a main thread
       waits for some event and then passes that event to the appropriate
       worker threads for processing.  Once the event has been passed on, the
       boss thread goes back to waiting for another event.

       The boss thread does relatively little work.  While tasks aren't neces-
       sarily performed faster than with any other method, it tends to have
       the best user-response times.

       Work Crew

       In the work crew model, several threads are created that do essentially
       the same thing to different pieces of data.  It closely mirrors classi-
       cal parallel processing and vector processors, where a large array of
       processors do the exact same thing to many pieces of data.

       This model is particularly useful if(3,n) the system running the program
       will distribute multiple threads across different processors.  It can
       also be useful in(1,8) ray tracing or rendering engines, where the individ-
       ual threads can pass on interim results to give the user visual feed-


       The pipeline model divides up a task into a series of steps, and passes
       the results of one step on to the thread processing the next.  Each
       thread does one thing to each piece of data and passes the results to
       the next thread in(1,8) line.

       This model makes the most sense if(3,n) you have multiple processors so two
       or more threads will be executing in(1,8) parallel, though it can often make
       sense in(1,8) other contexts as well.  It tends to keep the individual tasks
       small and simple, as well as allowing some parts of the pipeline to
       block (on I/O or system calls, for example) while other parts keep
       going.  If you're running different parts of the pipeline on different
       processors you may also take advantage of the caches on each processor.

       This model is also handy for a form of recursive programming where,
       rather than having a subroutine call itself, it instead creates another
       thread.  Prime and Fibonacci generators both map well to this form of
       the pipeline model. (A version(1,3,5) of a prime number generator is presented
       later on.)

Native threads
       There are several different ways to implement threads on a system.  How
       threads are implemented depends both on the vendor and, in(1,8) some cases,
       the version(1,3,5) of the operating system.  Often the first implementation
       will be relatively simple, but later versions of the OS will be more

       While the information in(1,8) this section is useful, it's not necessary, so
       you can skip it if(3,n) you don't feel up to it.

       There are three basic categories of threads-user-mode threads, kernel
       threads, and multiprocessor kernel threads.

       User-mode threads are threads that live entirely within a program and
       its libraries.  In this model, the OS knows nothing about threads.  As
       far as it's concerned, your process is just a process.

       This is the easiest way to implement threads, and the way most OSes
       start.  The big disadvantage is that, since the OS knows nothing about
       threads, if(3,n) one thread blocks they all do.  Typical blocking activities
       include most system calls, most I/O, and things like sleep(1,3)().

       Kernel threads are the next step in(1,8) thread evolution.  The OS knows
       about kernel threads, and makes allowances for them.  The main differ-
       ence between a kernel thread and a user-mode thread is blocking.  With
       kernel threads, things that block a single thread don't block other
       threads.  This is not the case with user-mode threads, where the kernel
       blocks at the process level and not the thread level.

       This is a big step forward, and can give a threaded program quite a
       performance boost over non-threaded programs.  Threads that block per-
       forming I/O, for example, won't block threads that are doing other
       things.  Each process still has only one thread running at once,
       though, regardless of how many CPUs a system might have.

       Since kernel threading can interrupt a thread at any time(1,2,n), they will
       uncover some of the implicit locking assumptions you may make in(1,8) your
       program.  For example, something as simple as "$a = $a + 2" can behave
       unpredictably with kernel threads if(3,n) $a is visible to other threads, as
       another thread may have changed $a between the time(1,2,n) it was fetched on
       the right hand side and the time(1,2,n) the new value is stored.

       Multiprocessor Kernel Threads are the final step in(1,8) thread support.
       With multiprocessor kernel threads on a machine with multiple CPUs, the
       OS may schedule two or more threads to run simultaneously on different

       This can give a serious performance boost to your threaded program,
       since more than one thread will be executing at the same time.  As a
       tradeoff, though, any of those nagging synchronization issues that
       might not have shown with basic kernel threads will appear with a

       In addition to the different levels of OS involvement in(1,8) threads, dif-
       ferent OSes (and different thread implementations for a particular OS)
       allocate CPU cycles to threads in(1,8) different ways.

       Cooperative multitasking systems have running threads give up control
       if(3,n) one of two things happen.  If a thread calls a yield function, it
       gives up control.  It also gives up control if(3,n) the thread does some-
       thing that would cause it to block, such as perform I/O.  In a coopera-
       tive multitasking implementation, one thread can starve all the others
       for CPU time(1,2,n) if(3,n) it so chooses.

       Preemptive multitasking systems interrupt threads at regular intervals
       while the system decides which thread should run next.  In a preemptive
       multitasking system, one thread usually won't monopolize the CPU.

       On some systems, there can be cooperative and preemptive threads run-
       ning simultaneously. (Threads running with realtime priorities often
       behave cooperatively, for example, while threads running at normal pri-
       orities behave preemptively.)

What kind of threads are perl threads?
       If you have experience with other thread implementations, you might
       find that things aren't quite what you expect.  It's very important to
       remember when dealing with Perl threads that Perl Threads Are Not X
       Threads, for all values of X.  They aren't POSIX threads, or Dec-
       Threads, or Java's Green threads, or Win32 threads.  There are similar-
       ities, and the broad concepts are the same, but if(3,n) you start looking
       for implementation details you're going to be either disappointed or
       confused.  Possibly both.

       This is not to say that Perl threads are completely different from
       everything that's ever come before--they're not.  Perl's threading
       model owes a lot to other thread models, especially POSIX.  Just as
       Perl is not C, though, Perl threads are not POSIX threads.  So if(3,n) you
       find yourself looking for mutexes, or thread priorities, it's time(1,2,n) to
       step back a bit and think about what you want to do and how Perl can do

Threadsafe Modules
       The addition of threads has changed Perl's internals substantially.
       There are implications for people who write(1,2) modules--especially modules
       with XS code or external libraries.  While most modules won't encounter
       any problems, modules that aren't explicitly tagged as thread-safe
       should be tested before being used in(1,8) production code.

       Not all modules that you might use are thread-safe, and you should
       always assume a module is unsafe unless the documentation says other-
       wise.  This includes modules that are distributed as part of the core.
       Threads are a beta feature, and even some of the standard modules
       aren't thread-safe.

       If you're using a module that's not thread-safe for some reason, you
       can protect yourself by using semaphores and lots of programming disci-
       pline to control access(2,5) to the module.  Semaphores are covered later in(1,8)
       the article.  Perl Threads Are Different

Thread Basics
       The core Thread module provides the basic functions you need to write(1,2)
       threaded programs.  In the following sections we'll cover the basics,
       showing you what you need to do to create a threaded program.   After
       that, we'll go over some of the features of the Thread module that make
       threaded programming easier.

       Basic Thread Support

       Thread support is a Perl compile-time option-it's something that's
       turned on or off when Perl is built at your site, rather than when your
       programs are compiled. If your Perl wasn't compiled with thread support
       enabled, then any attempt to use threads will fail.

       Remember that the threading support in(1,8) 5.005 is in(1,8) beta release, and
       should be treated as such.   You should expect that it may not function
       entirely properly, and the thread interface may well change some before
       it is a fully supported, production release.  The beta version(1,3,5)
       shouldn't be used for mission-critical projects.  Having said that,
       threaded Perl is pretty nifty, and worth a look.

       Your programs can use the Config module to check whether threads are
       enabled. If your program can't run without them, you can say something

         $Config{usethreads} or die "Recompile Perl with threads to run this program.";

       A possibly-threaded program using a possibly-threaded module might have
       code like this:

           use Config;
           use MyMod;

           if(3,n) ($Config{usethreads}) {
               # We have threads
               require MyMod_threaded;
               import MyMod_threaded;
           } else {
               require MyMod_unthreaded;
               import MyMod_unthreaded;

       Since code that runs both with and without threads is usually pretty
       messy, it's best to isolate the thread-specific code in(1,8) its own module.
       In our example above, that's what MyMod_threaded is, and it's only
       imported if(3,n) we're running on a threaded Perl.

       Creating Threads

       The Thread package provides the tools you need to create new threads.
       Like any other module, you need to tell Perl you want to use it; use
       Thread imports all the pieces you need to create basic threads.

       The simplest, straightforward way to create a thread is with new():

           use Thread;

           $thr = new Thread \&sub1;

           sub sub1 {
               print "In the thread\n";

       The new() method takes a reference to a subroutine and creates a new
       thread, which starts executing in(1,8) the referenced subroutine.  Control
       then passes both to the subroutine and the caller.

       If you need to, your program can pass parameters to the subroutine as
       part of the thread startup.  Just include the list of parameters as
       part of the "Thread::new" call, like this:

           use Thread;
           $Param3 = "foo";
           $thr = new Thread \&sub1, "Param 1", "Param 2", $Param3;
           $thr = new Thread \&sub1, @ParamList;
           $thr = new Thread \&sub1, qw(Param1 Param2 $Param3);

           sub sub1 {
               my @InboundParameters = @_;
               print "In the thread\n";
               print "got parameters >", join(1,n)("<>", @InboundParameters), "<\n";

       The subroutine runs like a normal Perl subroutine, and the call to new
       Thread returns whatever the subroutine returns.

       The last example illustrates another feature of threads.  You can spawn
       off several threads using the same subroutine.  Each thread executes
       the same subroutine, but in(1,8) a separate thread with a separate environ-
       ment and potentially separate arguments.

       The other way to spawn a new thread is with async(), which is a way to
       spin off a chunk of code like eval(), but into its own thread:

           use Thread qw(async);

           $LineCount = 0;

           $thr = async {
               while(<>) {$LineCount++}
               print "Got $LineCount lines\n";

           print "Waiting for the linecount to end\n";
           print "All done\n";

       You'll notice we did a use Thread qw(async) in(1,8) that example.  async is
       not exported by default, so if(3,n) you want it, you'll either need to
       import it before you use it or fully qualify it as Thread::async.
       You'll also note that there's a semicolon after the closing brace.
       That's because async() treats the following block as an anonymous sub-
       routine, so the semicolon is necessary.

       Like eval(), the code executes in(1,8) the same context as it would if(3,n) it
       weren't spun off.  Since both the code inside and after the async start
       executing, you need to be careful with any shared resources.  Locking
       and other synchronization techniques are covered later.

       Giving up control

       There are times when you may find it useful to have a thread explicitly
       give up the CPU to another thread.  Your threading package might not
       support preemptive multitasking for threads, for example, or you may be
       doing something compute-intensive and want to make sure that the user-
       interface thread gets(3,n) called frequently.  Regardless, there are times
       that you might want a thread to give up the processor.

       Perl's threading package provides the yield() function that does this.
       yield() is pretty straightforward, and works like this:

           use Thread qw(yield async);
           async {
               my $foo = 50;
               while ($foo--) { print "first async\n" }
               $foo = 50;
               while ($foo--) { print "first async\n" }
           async {
               my $foo = 50;
               while ($foo--) { print "second async\n" }
               $foo = 50;
               while ($foo--) { print "second async\n" }

       Waiting For A Thread To Exit

       Since threads are also subroutines, they can return values.  To wait
       for a thread to exit(3,n,1 builtins) and extract any scalars it might return, you can
       use the join(1,n)() method.

           use Thread;
           $thr = new Thread \&sub1;

           @ReturnData = $thr->join(1,n);
           print "Thread returned @ReturnData";

           sub sub1 { return "Fifty-six", "foo", 2; }

       In the example above, the join(1,n)() method returns as soon as the thread
       ends.  In addition to waiting for a thread to finish and gathering up
       any values that the thread might have returned, join(1,n)() also performs
       any OS cleanup necessary for the thread.  That cleanup might be impor-
       tant, especially for long-running programs that spawn lots of threads.
       If you don't want the return values and don't want to wait for the
       thread to finish, you should call the detach() method instead. detach()
       is covered later in(1,8) the article.

       Errors In Threads

       So what happens when an error(8,n) occurs in(1,8) a thread? Any errors that could
       be caught with eval() are postponed until the thread is joined.  If
       your program never joins, the errors appear when your program exits.

       Errors deferred until a join(1,n)() can be caught with eval():

           use Thread qw(async);
           $thr = async {$b = 3/0};   # Divide by zero error(8,n)
           $foo = eval {$thr->join(1,n)};
           if(3,n) ($@) {
               print "died with error(8,n) $@\n";
           } else {
               print "Hey, why aren't you dead?\n";

       eval() passes any results from the joined thread back unmodified, so if(3,n)
       you want the return value of the thread, this is your only chance to
       get them.

       Ignoring A Thread

       join(1,n)() does three things: it waits for a thread to exit(3,n,1 builtins), cleans up
       after it, and returns any data the thread may have produced.  But what
       if(3,n) you're not interested in(1,8) the thread's return values, and you don't
       really care when the thread finishes? All you want is for the thread to
       get cleaned up after when it's done.

       In this case, you use the detach() method.  Once a thread is detached,
       it'll run until it's finished, then Perl will clean up after it auto-

           use Thread;
           $thr = new Thread \&sub1; # Spawn the thread

           $thr->detach; # Now we officially don't care any more

           sub sub1 {
               $a = 0;
               while (1) {
                   print "\$a is $a\n";
                   sleep(1,3) 1;

       Once a thread is detached, it may not be joined, and any output that it
       might have produced (if(3,n) it was done and waiting for a join(1,n)) is lost.

Threads And Data
       Now that we've covered the basics of threads, it's time(1,2,n) for our next
       topic: data.  Threading introduces a couple of complications to data
       access(2,5) that non-threaded programs never need to worry about.

       Shared And Unshared Data

       The single most important thing to remember when using threads is that
       all threads potentially have access(2,5) to all the data anywhere in(1,8) your
       program.  While this is true with a nonthreaded Perl program as well,
       it's especially important to remember with a threaded program, since
       more than one thread can be accessing this data at once.

       Perl's scoping rules don't change because you're using threads.  If a
       subroutine (or block, in(1,8) the case of async()) could see a variable if(3,n)
       you weren't running with threads, it can see it if(3,n) you are.  This is
       especially important for the subroutines that create, and makes "my"
       variables even more important.  Remember--if your variables aren't lex-
       ically scoped (declared with "my") you're probably sharing them between

       Thread Pitfall: Races

       While threads bring a new set(7,n,1 builtins) of useful tools, they also bring a number
       of pitfalls.  One pitfall is the race condition:

           use Thread;
           $a = 1;
           $thr1 = Thread->new(\&sub1);
           $thr2 = Thread->new(\&sub2);

           sleep(1,3) 10;
           print "$a\n";

           sub sub1 { $foo = $a; $a = $foo + 1; }
           sub sub2 { $bar = $a; $a = $bar + 1; }

       What do you think $a will be? The answer, unfortunately, is "it
       depends." Both sub1() and sub2() access(2,5) the global variable $a, once to
       read(2,n,1 builtins) and once to write.  Depending on factors ranging from your thread
       implementation's scheduling algorithm to the phase of the moon, $a can
       be 2 or 3.

       Race conditions are caused by unsynchronized access(2,5) to shared data.
       Without explicit synchronization, there's no way to be sure that noth-
       ing has happened to the shared data between the time(1,2,n) you access(2,5) it and
       the time(1,2,n) you update(7,n) it.  Even this simple code fragment has the possi-
       bility of error:

           use Thread qw(async);
           $a = 2;
           async{ $b = $a; $a = $b + 1; };
           async{ $c = $a; $a = $c + 1; };

       Two threads both access(2,5) $a.  Each thread can potentially be interrupted
       at any point, or be executed in(1,8) any order.  At the end, $a could be 3
       or 4, and both $b and $c could be 2 or 3.

       Whenever your program accesses data or resources that can be accessed
       by other threads, you must take steps to coordinate access(2,5) or risk data
       corruption and race conditions.

       Controlling access: lock()

       The lock() function takes a variable (or subroutine, but we'll get to
       that later) and puts(3,n) a lock on it.  No other thread may lock the vari-
       able until the locking thread exits the innermost block containing the
       lock.  Using lock() is straightforward:

           use Thread qw(async);
           $a = 4;
           $thr1 = async {
               $foo = 12;
                   lock ($a); # Block until we get access(2,5) to $a
                   $b = $a;
                   $a = $b * $foo;
               print "\$foo was $foo\n";
           $thr2 = async {
               $bar = 7;
                   lock ($a); # Block until we can get access(2,5) to $a
                   $c = $a;
                   $a = $c * $bar;
               print "\$bar was $bar\n";
           print "\$a is $a\n";

       lock() blocks the thread until the variable being locked is available.
       When lock() returns, your thread can be sure that no other thread can
       lock that variable until the innermost block containing the lock exits.

       It's important to note that locks don't prevent access(2,5) to the variable
       in(1,8) question, only lock attempts.  This is in(1,8) keeping with Perl's long-
       standing tradition of courteous programming, and the advisory file(1,n)
       locking that flock(1,2)() gives you.  Locked subroutines behave differently,
       however.  We'll cover that later in(1,8) the article.

       You may lock arrays and hashes as well as scalars.  Locking an array,
       though, will not block subsequent locks on array elements, just lock
       attempts on the array itself.

       Finally, locks are recursive, which means it's okay for a thread to
       lock a variable more than once.  The lock will last until the outermost
       lock() on the variable goes out of scope.

       Thread Pitfall: Deadlocks

       Locks are a handy tool to synchronize access(2,5) to data.  Using them prop-
       erly is the key to safe shared data.  Unfortunately, locks aren't with-
       out their dangers.  Consider the following code:

           use Thread qw(async yield);
           $a = 4;
           $b = "foo";
           async {
               sleep(1,3) 20;
               lock ($b);
           async {
               sleep(1,3) 20;
               lock ($a);

       This program will probably hang until you kill(1,2,1 builtins) it.  The only way it
       won't hang is if(3,n) one of the two async() routines acquires both locks
       first.  A guaranteed-to-hang version(1,3,5) is more complicated, but the prin-
       ciple is the same.

       The first thread spawned by async() will grab a lock on $a then, a sec-
       ond or two later, try to grab a lock on $b.  Meanwhile, the second
       thread grabs a lock on $b, then later tries to grab a lock on $a.  The
       second lock attempt for both threads will block, each waiting for the
       other to release its lock.

       This condition is called a deadlock, and it occurs whenever two or more
       threads are trying to get locks on resources that the others own.  Each
       thread will block, waiting for the other to release a lock on a
       resource.  That never happens, though, since the thread with the
       resource is itself waiting for a lock to be released.

       There are a number of ways to handle this sort(1,3) of problem.  The best
       way is to always have all threads acquire locks in(1,8) the exact same
       order.  If, for example, you lock variables $a, $b, and $c, always lock
       $a before $b, and $b before $c.  It's also best to hold on to locks for
       as short a period of time(1,2,n) to minimize the risks of deadlock.

       Queues: Passing Data Around

       A queue(1,3) is a special thread-safe object that lets you put data in(1,8) one
       end and take it out the other without having to worry about synchro-
       nization issues.  They're pretty straightforward, and look(1,8,3 Search::Dict) like this:

           use Thread qw(async);
           use Thread::Queue;

           my $DataQueue = new Thread::Queue;
           $thr = async {
               while ($DataElement = $DataQueue->dequeue) {
                   print "Popped $DataElement off the queue(1,3)\n";

           $DataQueue->enqueue("A", "B", "C");
           sleep(1,3) 10;

       You create the queue(1,3) with new Thread::Queue.  Then you can add lists of
       scalars onto the end with enqueue(), and pop scalars off the front of
       it with dequeue().  A queue(1,3) has no fixed size, and can grow as needed
       to hold everything pushed on to it.

       If a queue(1,3) is empty, dequeue() blocks until another thread enqueues
       something.  This makes queues ideal for event loops and other communi-
       cations between threads.

Threads And Code
       In addition to providing thread-safe access(2,5) to data via locks and
       queues, threaded Perl also provides general-purpose semaphores for
       coarser synchronization than locks provide and thread-safe access(2,5) to
       entire subroutines.

       Semaphores: Synchronizing Data Access

       Semaphores are a kind of generic locking mechanism.  Unlike lock, which
       gets(3,n) a lock on a particular scalar, Perl doesn't associate any particu-
       lar thing with a semaphore so you can use them to control access(2,5) to
       anything you like.  In addition, semaphores can allow more than one
       thread to access(2,5) a resource at once, though by default semaphores only
       allow one thread access(2,5) at a time.

       Basic semaphores
           Semaphores have two methods, down and up. down decrements the
           resource count, while up increments it.  down calls will block if(3,n)
           the semaphore's current count would decrement below zero.  This
           program gives a quick demonstration:

               use Thread qw(yield);
               use Thread::Semaphore;
               my $semaphore = new Thread::Semaphore;
               $GlobalVariable = 0;

               $thr1 = new Thread \&sample_sub, 1;
               $thr2 = new Thread \&sample_sub, 2;
               $thr3 = new Thread \&sample_sub, 3;

               sub sample_sub {
                   my $SubNumber = shift @_;
                   my $TryCount = 10;
                   my $LocalCopy;
                   sleep(1,3) 1;
                   while ($TryCount--) {
                       $LocalCopy = $GlobalVariable;
                       print "$TryCount tries left for sub $SubNumber (\$GlobalVariable is $GlobalVariable)\n";
                       sleep(1,3) 2;
                       $GlobalVariable = $LocalCopy;

           The three invocations of the subroutine all operate in(1,8) sync.  The
           semaphore, though, makes sure that only one thread is accessing the
           global variable at once.

       Advanced Semaphores
           By default, semaphores behave like locks, letting only one thread
           down() them at a time.  However, there are other uses for sema-

           Each semaphore has a counter attached to it. down() decrements the
           counter and up() increments the counter.  By default, semaphores
           are created with the counter set(7,n,1 builtins) to one, down() decrements by one,
           and up() increments by one.  If down() attempts to decrement the
           counter below zero, it blocks until the counter is large enough.
           Note that while a semaphore can be created with a starting count of
           zero, any up() or down() always changes the counter by at least
           one. $semaphore->down(0) is the same as $semaphore->down(1).

           The question, of course, is why would you do something like this?
           Why create a semaphore with a starting count that's not one, or why
           decrement/increment it by more than one? The answer is resource
           availability.  Many resources that you want to manage access(2,5) for
           can be safely used by more than one thread at once.

           For example, let's take a GUI driven program.  It has a semaphore
           that it uses to synchronize access(2,5) to the display, so only one
           thread is ever drawing at once.  Handy, but of course you don't
           want any thread to start drawing until things are properly set(7,n,1 builtins) up.
           In this case, you can create a semaphore with a counter set(7,n,1 builtins) to
           zero, and up it when things are ready for drawing.

           Semaphores with counters greater than one are also useful for
           establishing quotas.  Say, for example, that you have a number of
           threads that can do I/O at once.  You don't want all the threads
           reading or writing at once though, since that can potentially swamp
           your I/O channels, or deplete your process' quota(1,8) of filehandles.
           You can use a semaphore initialized to the number of concurrent I/O
           requests (or open(2,3,n) files) that you want at any one time(1,2,n), and have
           your threads quietly block and unblock themselves.

           Larger increments or decrements are handy in(1,8) those cases where a
           thread needs to check out or return a number of resources at once.

       Attributes: Restricting Access To Subroutines

       In addition to synchronizing access(2,5) to data or resources, you might
       find it useful to synchronize access(2,5) to subroutines.  You may be
       accessing a singular machine resource (perhaps a vector processor), or
       find it easier to serialize calls to a particular subroutine than to
       have a set(7,n,1 builtins) of locks and semaphores.

       One of the additions to Perl 5.005 is subroutine attributes.  The
       Thread package uses these to provide several flavors of serialization.
       It's important to remember that these attributes are used in(1,8) the compi-
       lation phase of your program so you can't change a subroutine's behav-
       ior while your program is actually running.

       Subroutine Locks

       The basic subroutine lock looks like this:

           sub test_sub :locked {

       This ensures that only one thread will be executing this subroutine at
       any one time.  Once a thread calls this subroutine, any other thread
       that calls it will block until the thread in(1,8) the subroutine exits it.
       A more elaborate example looks like this:

           use Thread qw(yield);

           new Thread \&thread_sub, 1;
           new Thread \&thread_sub, 2;
           new Thread \&thread_sub, 3;
           new Thread \&thread_sub, 4;

           sub sync_sub :locked {
               my $CallingThread = shift @_;
               print "In sync_sub for thread $CallingThread\n";
               sleep(1,3) 3;
               print "Leaving sync_sub for thread $CallingThread\n";

           sub thread_sub {
               my $ThreadID = shift @_;
               print "Thread $ThreadID calling sync_sub\n";
               print "$ThreadID is done with sync_sub\n";

       The "locked" attribute tells perl to lock sync_sub(), and if(3,n) you run
       this, you can see that only one thread is in(1,8) it at any one time.


       Locking an entire subroutine can sometimes be overkill, especially when
       dealing with Perl objects.  When calling a method for an object, for
       example, you want to serialize calls to a method, so that only one
       thread will be in(1,8) the subroutine for a particular object, but threads
       calling that subroutine for a different object aren't blocked.  The
       method attribute indicates whether the subroutine is really a method.

           use Thread;

           sub tester {
               my $thrnum = shift @_;
               my $bar = new Foo;
               foreach (1..10) {
                   print "$thrnum calling per_object\n";
                   print "$thrnum out of per_object\n";
                   print "$thrnum calling one_at_a_time\n";
                   print "$thrnum out of one_at_a_time\n";

           foreach my $thrnum (1..10) {
               new Thread \&tester, $thrnum;

           package Foo;
           sub new {
               my $class = shift @_;
               return bless [@_], $class;

           sub per_object :locked :method {
               my ($class, $thrnum) = @_;
               print "In per_object for thread $thrnum\n";
               sleep(1,3) 2;
               print "Exiting per_object for thread $thrnum\n";

           sub one_at_a_time :locked {
               my ($class, $thrnum) = @_;
               print "In one_at_a_time for thread $thrnum\n";
               sleep(1,3) 2;
               print "Exiting one_at_a_time for thread $thrnum\n";

       As you can see from the output (omitted for brevity; it's 800 lines)
       all the threads can be in(1,8) per_object() simultaneously, but only one
       thread is ever in(1,8) one_at_a_time() at once.

       Locking A Subroutine

       You can lock a subroutine as you would lock a variable.  Subroutine
       locks work the same as specifying a "locked" attribute for the subrou-
       tine, and block all access(2,5) to the subroutine for other threads until
       the lock goes out of scope.  When the subroutine isn't locked, any num-
       ber of threads can be in(1,8) it at once, and getting a lock on a subroutine
       doesn't affect threads already in(1,8) the subroutine.  Getting a lock on a
       subroutine looks like this:


       Simple enough.  Unlike the "locked" attribute, which is a compile time(1,2,n)
       option, locking and unlocking a subroutine can be done at runtime at
       your discretion.  There is some runtime penalty to using lock(\&sub)
       instead of the "locked" attribute, so make sure you're choosing the
       proper method to do the locking.

       You'd choose lock(\&sub) when writing modules and code to run on both
       threaded and unthreaded Perl, especially for code that will run on
       5.004 or earlier Perls.  In that case, it's useful to have subroutines
       that should be serialized lock themselves if(3,n) they're running threaded,
       like so:

           package Foo;
           use Config;
           $Running_Threaded = 0;

           BEGIN { $Running_Threaded = $Config{'usethreads'} }

           sub sub1 { lock(\&sub1) if(3,n) $Running_Threaded }

       This way you can ensure single-threadedness regardless of which version(1,3,5)
       of Perl you're running.

General Thread Utility Routines
       We've covered the workhorse parts of Perl's threading package, and with
       these tools you should be well on your way to writing threaded code and
       packages.  There are a few useful little pieces that didn't really fit
       in(1,8) anyplace else.

       What Thread Am I In?

       The Thread->self method provides your program with a way to get an
       object representing the thread it's currently in.  You can use this
       object in(1,8) the same way as the ones returned from the thread creation.

       Thread IDs

       tid() is a thread object method that returns the thread ID of the
       thread the object represents.  Thread IDs are integers, with the main
       thread in(1,8) a program being 0.  Currently Perl assigns a unique tid to
       every thread ever created in(1,8) your program, assigning the first thread
       to be created a tid of 1, and increasing the tid by 1 for each new
       thread that's created.

       Are These Threads The Same?

       The equal() method takes two thread objects and returns true if(3,n) the
       objects represent the same thread, and false if(3,n) they don't.

       What Threads Are Running?

       Thread->list returns a list of thread objects, one for each thread
       that's currently running.  Handy for a number of things, including
       cleaning up at the end of your program:

           # Loop through all the threads
           foreach $thr (Thread->list) {
               # Don't join(1,n) the main thread or ourselves
               if(3,n) ($thr->tid && !Thread::equal($thr, Thread->self)) {

       The example above is just for illustration.  It isn't strictly neces-
       sary to join(1,n) all the threads you create, since Perl detaches all the
       threads before it exits.

A Complete Example
       Confused yet? It's time(1,2,n) for an example program to show some of the
       things we've covered.  This program finds prime numbers using threads.

           1  #!/usr/bin/perl -w
           2  # prime-pthread, courtesy of Tom Christiansen
           4  use strict;
           6  use Thread;
           7  use Thread::Queue;
           9  my $stream = new Thread::Queue;
           10 my $kid    = new Thread(\&check_num, $stream, 2);
           12 for my $i ( 3 .. 1000 ) {
           13     $stream->enqueue($i);
           14 }
           16 $stream->enqueue(undef);
           17 $kid->join(1,n)();
           19 sub check_num {
           20     my ($upstream, $cur_prime) = @_;
           21     my $kid;
           22     my $downstream = new Thread::Queue;
           23     while (my $num = $upstream->dequeue) {
           24         next unless $num % $cur_prime;
           25         if(3,n) ($kid) {
           26            $downstream->enqueue($num);
           27                  } else {
           28            print "Found prime $num\n";
           29                $kid = new Thread(\&check_num, $downstream, $num);
           30         }
           31     }
           32     $downstream->enqueue(undef) if(3,n) $kid;
           33     $kid->join(1,n)()         if(3,n) $kid;
           34 }

       This program uses the pipeline model to generate prime numbers.  Each
       thread in(1,8) the pipeline has an input queue(1,3) that feeds numbers to be
       checked, a prime number that it's responsible for, and an output queue(1,3)
       that it funnels numbers that have failed the check into.  If the thread
       has a number that's failed its check and there's no child thread, then
       the thread must have found a new prime number.  In that case, a new
       child thread is created for that prime and stuck on the end of the

       This probably sounds a bit more confusing than it really is, so lets go
       through this program piece by piece and see what it does.  (For those
       of you who might be trying to remember exactly what a prime number is,
       it's a number that's only evenly divisible by itself and 1)

       The bulk of the work is done by the check_num() subroutine, which takes
       a reference to its input queue(1,3) and a prime number that it's responsible
       for.  After pulling in(1,8) the input queue(1,3) and the prime that the subrou-
       tine's checking (line 20), we create a new queue(1,3) (line 22) and reserve
       a scalar for the thread that we're likely to create later (line 21).

       The while loop from lines 23 to line 31 grabs a scalar off the input
       queue(1,3) and checks against the prime this thread is responsible for.
       Line 24 checks to see if(3,n) there's a remainder when we modulo the number
       to be checked against our prime.  If there is one, the number must not
       be evenly divisible by our prime, so we need to either pass it on to
       the next thread if(3,n) we've created one (line 26) or create a new thread
       if(3,n) we haven't.

       The new thread creation is line 29.  We pass on to it a reference to
       the queue(1,3) we've created, and the prime number we've found.

       Finally, once the loop terminates (because we got a 0 or undef in(1,8) the
       queue(1,3), which serves as a note to die), we pass on the notice to our
       child and wait for it to exit(3,n,1 builtins) if(3,n) we've created a child (Lines 32 and

       Meanwhile, back in(1,8) the main thread, we create a queue(1,3) (line 9) and the
       initial child thread (line 10), and pre-seed it with the first prime:
       2.  Then we queue(1,3) all the numbers from 3 to 1000 for checking (lines
       12-14), then queue(1,3) a die notice (line 16) and wait for the first child
       thread to terminate (line 17).  Because a child won't die until its
       child has died, we know that we're done once we return from the join.

       That's how it works.  It's pretty simple; as with many Perl programs,
       the explanation is much longer than the program.

       A complete thread tutorial could fill a book (and has, many times), but
       this should get you well on your way.  The final authority on how
       Perl's threads behave is the documentation bundled with the Perl dis-
       tribution, but with what we've covered in(1,8) this article, you should be
       well on your way to becoming a threaded Perl expert.

       Here's a short bibliography courtesy of Jrgen Christoffel:

       Introductory Texts

       Birrell, Andrew D. An Introduction to Programming with Threads. Digital
       Equipment Corporation, 1989, DEC-SRC Research Report #35 online as (highly rec-

       Robbins, Kay. A., and Steven Robbins. Practical Unix Programming: A
       Guide to Concurrency, Communication, and Multithreading. Prentice-Hall,

       Lewis, Bill, and Daniel J. Berg. Multithreaded Programming with
       Pthreads. Prentice Hall, 1997, ISBN 0-13-443698-9 (a well-written
       introduction to threads).

       Nelson, Greg (editor). Systems Programming with Modula-3.  Prentice
       Hall, 1991, ISBN 0-13-590464-1.

       Nichols, Bradford, Dick Buttlar, and Jacqueline Proulx Farrell.
       Pthreads Programming. O'Reilly & Associates, 1996, ISBN 156592-115-1
       (covers POSIX threads).

       OS-Related References

       Boykin, Joseph, David Kirschen, Alan Langerman, and Susan LoVerso. Pro-
       gramming under Mach. Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 0-201-52739-1.

       Tanenbaum, Andrew S. Distributed Operating Systems. Prentice Hall,
       1995, ISBN 0-13-219908-4 (great textbook).

       Silberschatz, Abraham, and Peter B. Galvin. Operating System Concepts,
       4th ed. Addison-Wesley, 1995, ISBN 0-201-59292-4

       Other References

       Arnold, Ken and James Gosling. The Java Programming Language, 2nd ed.
       Addison-Wesley, 1998, ISBN 0-201-31006-6.

       Le Sergent, T. and B. Berthomieu. "Incremental MultiThreaded Garbage
       Collection on Virtually Shared Memory Architectures" in(1,8) Memory Manage-
       ment: Proc. of the International Workshop IWMM 92, St. Malo, France,
       September 1992, Yves Bekkers and Jacques Cohen, eds. Springer, 1992,
       ISBN 3540-55940-X (real-life thread applications).

       Thanks (in(1,8) no particular order) to Chaim Frenkel, Steve Fink, Gurusamy
       Sarathy, Ilya Zakharevich, Benjamin Sugars, Jrgen Christoffel, Joshua
       Pritikin, and Alan Burlison, for their help in(1,8) reality-checking and
       polishing this article.  Big thanks to Tom Christiansen for his rewrite
       of the prime number generator.

       Dan Sugalski <>

       This article originally appeared in(1,8) The Perl Journal #10, and is copy-
       right 1998 The Perl Journal. It appears courtesy of Jon Orwant and The
       Perl Journal.  This document may be distributed under the same terms as
       Perl itself.

perl v5.8.5                       2004-04-23                    PERLOTHRTUT(1)

References for this manual (incoming links)