Definition

asynchronous

In general, asynchronous (pronounced ay-SIHN-kro-nuhs, from Greek asyn-, meaning "not with," and chronos, meaning "time") is an adjective describing objects or events that are not coordinated in time. In information technology, the term has several different usages.

1) In telecommunication signaling within a network or between networks, an asynchronous signal is one that is transmitted at a different clock rate than another signal. (Plesiochronous signals are almost but not quite in synchronization - and a method is used to adjust them - and synchronous signals are those that run at the same clock rate.

2) In computer programs, asynchronous operation means that a process operates independently of other processes, whereas synchronous operation means that the process runs only as a result of some other process being completed or handing off operation. 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 August 2006
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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