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Definition

task

In computer programming, a task is a basic unit of programming that an operating system controls. Depending on how the operating system defines a task in its design, this unit of programming may be an entire program or each successive invocation of a program. Since one program may make requests of other utility programs, the utility programs may also be considered tasks (or subtasks). All of today's widely-used operating systems support multitasking , which allows multiple tasks to run concurrently, taking turns using the resources of the computer.

In preemptive multitasking , each task may be assigned a priority depending on its relative importance, the amount of resources it is consuming, and other factors. The operating system then preempts (cuts short) a task having a lower priority value so that a higher priority task is given a turn. Windows 2000 , OS/390 , Linux , and Amiga are examples of operating systems that use preemptive multitasking. Cooperative multitasking is the ability for an operating system to manage multiple tasks such as application programs at the same time, but without the ability to necessarily preempt them.

It's easy to confuse the terms Multithreading and multitasking . Multithreading is the management of multiple concurrent uses of the same program. Most operating systems and modern computer languages also support multithreading.

This was last updated in September 2005
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