Time Multiplexing: Applications, Advantages & Examples

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Communication is important, particularly today, as we strive to increase our capabilities. In this lesson, we'll take a look at time multiplexing with applications, examples, and advantages.

Being Effective

How do we do more with less? If it normally takes us four days to do something, we want to do it in three. And, if a transit system bus appears to be packed, we shuffle towards the back to pack more people in. This phenomenon is becoming more apparent as we strive to be as efficient and effective as we can. How do we apply this idea across the board? How do we consistently utilize our resources as effectively as possible? There are many applicable solutions. One of the most useful is time multiplexing.

What is Time Multiplexing?

Time multiplexing is a sharing technique. Specifically, it breaks up the time you have available into a stream of fixed-sized slots, and distributes those slots among the various activities that need to be accomplished. You rotate the time slots among the various activities, accomplishing one then switching to the next. The process continues until the activities are complete. For example, think about a chair lift at your local ski hill. The loop of chairs is equivalent to the time you have, each chair is a time slot, and the individual groups of people using the lift are the activities. Chairs continue to rotate, filling and emptying as long as there are people in line.

Applications and Examples of Time Multiplexing

There are many applications for time multiplexing. In computer science, they include sharing access to a commonly used resource among several consumers. A couple of significant examples include:

  • Communications - This application is called time division multiplexing. It shares an information stream on a channel among several signals simultaneously. The signals are broken down into pieces, sent in time slots, and then reassembled at the destination. Networks that you may see at work or in your home will use this type of strategy.
  • Process Execution - This is called context switching. It shares processor execution time among the tasks that need to be executed by the computer. By processing each time slot quickly, then switching between them, a computer can give the impression that it is executing multiple activities at the same time. Most personal computers have this capability.

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