Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

In general, synchronous (pronounced SIHN-kro-nuhs, from Greek syn-, meaning "with," and chronos, meaning "time") is an adjective describing objects or events that are coordinated in time. In information technology, the term has several different usages.

1) In telecommunication signaling within a network or between networks, synchronous signals are those that occur at the same clock rate when all clocks are based on a single reference clock. (Plesiochronous signals are almost but not quite in synchronization and asynchronous signals are those that run from different clocks or at a different transition rate.)

2) In program-to-program communication, synchronous communication requires that each end of an exchange of communication respond in turn without initiating a new communication. A typical activity that might use a synchronous protocol would be a transmission of files from one point to another. As each transmission is received, a response is returned indicating success or the need to resend. Each successive transmission of data requires a response to the previous transmission before a new one can be initiated.

Synchronous program communication is contrasted with asynchronous program communication.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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