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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
first-in first-out
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algorithm (FIFO, or "queue") A data structure or hardware
buffer from which items are taken out in the same order they
were put in. Also known as a "shelf" from the analogy with
pushing items onto one end of a shelf so that they fall off
the other. A FIFO is useful for buffering a stream of data
between a sender and receiver which are not synchronised -
i.e. not sending and receiving at exactly the same rate.
Obviously if the rates differ by too much in one direction for
too long then the FIFO will become either full (blocking the
sender) or empty (blocking the receiver). A Unix pipe
is a common example of a FIFO.