Threads, Concurrency, and Synchronization

Fixing Non-Reentrant Code

Splitting the Work up

Teaching Threads

Learning Objectives

  • Using pthreads to speed up code
  • Common patterns in multithreaded programs

So what is reduce?

Funny Mapreduce Explanation

What does it look like in code?


// This is fold right
int sequential_reduce(int (*function)(char, char), int* arr, 
                      size_t size){
	char initial = arr[0];
	int offset;
	for(offset = 1; offset < size; ++offset){
		initial = function(initial, arr[offset]);
	return initial;
int main(){
	char arr[] = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6};
	int sum = sequential_reduce(add, arr,
	// Whatever you want
	return 0;

Pthreads? What are thooooose?

Pthreads are short for POSIX-threads. They are a standardized way of doing multithreading on POSIX-compliant systems. A thread is short for thread of execution, meaning that the thread and execute instructions independently of other threads. You covered a lot in lecture here is a bit more in depth


int pthread_create(pthread_t *thread,
					const pthread_attr_t *attr,
                    void *(*start_routine) (void *),
                    void *arg);

  • thread somwhere to write the id of the thread
  • attr options that you set during pthread, for the most part you don’t need to worry about it
  • start_routine where to start your pthread
  • arg the arguments to give to each pthread

Join Me!

int pthread_join(pthread_t thread, void **retval);

  • thread the value of the thread *not a pointer to it
  • retval where should I put the resulting value

Just like waitpid, you want to join all your terminated threads. There is no analog of waitpid(-1, …) because if you need that ‘you probably need to rethink your application design.’ - man page.

All parallel code

#include <pthread.h>

void* do_massive_work(void* payload){
	/* Doing massive work */
	return NULL;

int main(){
	pthread_t threads[10];
	for(int i = 0; i < 10; ++i){
		pthread_create(threads+i, NULL, do_massive_work, NULL);

	for(int i = 0; i < 10; ++i){
		pthread_join(threads[i], NULL);
	return 0;

Some advanced stuff


You can guess what happens in pthread_kill This may be a bit advanced, but the general gist is that they let you leverage parallelism

Putting it all together

We want you to start a thread for each of the elements, do the computation and alter the array. Dividing up the work it should look something like the following

Thread array division

Wait a minute don’t we need mutexes and stuff?

You have been going through mutexes and other synchronization primitives in lecture, but the most efficient data structure uses no synchronization. This means that so long as no other thread touches the exact samepiece of memory that another thread is touching – there is no race condition. We are then using threads to their full potential of parallelism.