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Computing Thoughts
Odersky Explains Shared-Memory Concurrency
by Bruce Eckel
August 4, 2011
In his 17-minute keynote at O'Reilly OSCON Java 2011, Martin Odersky gives one of the more succinct and clear explanations I've seen on why shared-memory concurrency is virtually impossible to get right.


Here's the link.

Years ago at one of the CodeMash conferences, Brian Goetz gave a more in-depth presentation on the subject. This was, I think, a little before he published Java Concurrency in Practice. In his presentation, he made a very convincing case that showed how nearly-impossible it is to write correct code for shared-memory concurrency (Java threads, in his speech). More importantly, even if you do get it right it's incredibly fragile, so that any change in your code can easily introduce new concurrency bugs, and because testing is not possible, you don't know when these bugs appear.

For some reason, Brian didn't want the talk to be filmed or otherwise distributed. This is unfortunate because it was a great explanation of the difficulties; from my own experiences I was already mostly convinced that shared-memory concurrency was the wrong path but Goetz' talk finished the process.

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2011 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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