A synchronous observer of asynchronous events

Code, CodeProject


In the Observer design pattern, a subject holds a list of interested parties – the observers – which it will notify about changes in status. Simply put, it’s a form of subscription, and this design comes up in all sorts of places (which is one of the definitions of the term ‘design pattern‘). It’s well suited for handling asynchronous events, like user interaction in a GUI, sensor information, and so on.

There is, however, often a need to re-synchronise asynchronous events. For instance, you might keep the latest status update until it’s actually needed for display, storage or some calculation. By doing this, you disregard the asynchronous nature of its source, and treat it as just another variable, as if it had been read from the subject right then. In other words, you synchronise a status from the past with the present. Sometimes, though, you don’t want the last value, but the next, which is a bit more complex, as it requires you to wait for the future to happen before we can say it’s the present.

In this article, we will write a simple multi-threaded example implementation of the Observer pattern, and show how to re-synchronise a past event to look current. Then we’ll demonstrate a technique to treat future events like they’re current, too.