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buffer

Contributor(s): Janis Small

A buffer is a data area shared by hardware devices or program processes that operate at different speeds or with different sets of priorities. The buffer allows each device or process to operate without being held up by the other. In order for a buffer to be effective, the size of the buffer and the algorithms for moving data into and out of the buffer need to be considered by the buffer designer. Like a cache, a buffer is a "midpoint holding place" but exists not so much to accelerate the speed of an activity as to support the coordination of separate activities.

This term is used both in programming and in hardware. In programming, buffering sometimes implies the need to screen data from its final intended place so that it can be edited or otherwise processed before being moved to a regular file or database.

This was last updated in April 2005

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