Getting the result of the first completed parallel task in Java

In this post we saw how to delegate one or more parallel tasks to different threads and wait for all of them to complete. We pretended that 4 different computations took 1,2,3 and respectively 4 seconds to complete. If we execute each calculation one after the other on the same thread then it takes 10 seconds to complete them all. We can do a lot better by assigning each operation to a separate thread and let them run in parallel. The Future and Callable of T objects along with a thread pool make this very easy to implement.

There are situations where we only need the result from 1 parallel operation. Imagine that it’s enough to complete 1 of the four computations in the example code so that our main thread can continue. We don’t know how long each operation will take so we let them have a race. The one that is executed first returns its value and the rest are interrupted and forgotten. We’ll see how to achieve that in this post.

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Getting a result from a parallel task in Java

In this post we saw how to execute a task on a different thread in Java. The examples demonstrated how to start a thread in the background without the main thread waiting for a result. This strategy is called fire-and-forget and is ideal in cases where the task has no return value.

However, that’s not always the case. What if we want to wait for the task to finish and return a result? Welcome to the future… or to the Future with a capital F.

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