ThreadMentor: Threaded Quicksort

We mentioned in a previous example that, after the the given array segment is partitioned into two subarrays, two threads are created to sort the subarrays, one for each subarray. More precisely, when a thread receives an array segment, this thread partition the segment into two, and creates two child threads to sort the left and right subarrays. Then, the parent simply waits until both of its child threads complete.

Based on the observation above, it is clear that a thread must receive the left and right bounds of the array segment. The array itself can be a global object; however, we prefer to pass it as an argument. Therefore, we may define the QuickSortThread class as follows, and save this interface into file quicksort.h

#include "ThreadClass.h"

class QuickSortThread : public Thread
          // constructor
          QuickSortThread(int Lowerbound, int Upperbound, int Array[]); 

          void ThreadFunc();  // thread body
          int  lowerbound;    // lower bound of the sub-array to be sorted
          int  upperbound;    // upper bound of the sub-array to be sorted
          int  *a;            // pointing to array to be sorted
Click here to download this file (quicksort.h)

Next, let us turn our attention to the implementation of this QuickSortThread class. In fact, what we have to do is to write a constructor and fill method ThreadFunc() with the statements that will be executed by this thread. The constructor is quite simple. The base class has a char variable ThreadName for us to name a thread. Thus, the constructor also gives a name to the thread. Note that the lower and upper bounds are part of the thread name. The sorting step can be found in any data structures or algorithms textbooks. Once the pivot point is found, two threads are created and run, one for each array section. Since we would prefer to separate the interface and the implementation, this implementation will be stored in file quicksort.cpp. As a result, at the beginning of this file, we need to include the interface file quicksort.h as shown below.

#include  <iostream>
#include "quicksort.h"

QuickSortThread::QuickSortThread(int Lowerbound, int Upperbound, int Array[]) 
          :lowerbound(Lowerbound), upperbound(Upperbound), a(Array)
     ThreadName.seekp(0, ios::beg);
     ThreadName << "Sorting" 
                << '(' << Lowerbound << ':' << Upperbound << ')'
                << '\0';

void QuickSortThread::ThreadFunc()
     int pivot = a[upperbound];         // pick up pivot value
     int left = lowerbound - 1,         // scan index from left side
         right = upperbound,            // scan index from right side
         tmp, pivotIndex;

     QuickSortThread  *leftSortThread,  // recursive sorting threads

     if (lowerbound >= upperbound)
           Exit();                      //return and recursion ends

      while (left < right) {            // partition loop
          do { left++;} while (a[left] < pivot);
          do { right--;} while (a[right] > pivot);
          if (left < right ) {          
               tmp = a[left];
               a[left] = a[right];
               a[right] = tmp;

     pivotIndex = left;                 // put the  pivot back
     tmp = a[pivotIndex];
     a[pivotIndex] = pivot;
     a[upperbound] = tmp;

     // start the "recursive threads"
     leftSortThread = new QuickSortThread(lowerbound, pivotIndex - 1, a);
     rightSortThread = new QuickSortThread(pivotIndex + 1, upperbound, a);

     leftSortThread->Join();            // wait for the child threads

     Exit();                            // done and exit
Click here to download this file (quicksort.cpp)

Method ThreadFunc() is very straightforward. When this function is called to initiate the execution of this thread (by calling the Begin() method of class Thread), variables lowerbound and upperbound have already received (from the constructor) the left and right bounds of the array to be sorted. Thus, the first thing this thread must do is to make sure if there is anything left to do. This is easy: quit if lowerbound is no less than upperbound. If the array segment has more than two elements, the while loop and the four statements direct following it constitute the partition step and find the index (i.e., pivotIndex) and the value (i.e., pivot) of the pivot element. Once the partition step is done, ThreadFunc() creates a thread leftSortThread), provides it with the left and right bounds of the left segment (i.e., lowerbound and pivotIndex-1), and runs it by calling its method Begin(). This is followed by the same procedure for the right array segment. After this, the parent and two child threads are running. Please note that there are other threads running, in addition to these three. The parent thread cannot return or exit; otherwise, its child threads will be forced to terminate before they can complete their sorting job. As a result, the parent (i.e., this thread) executes two join calls, one for each of its two child threads. After both child threads complete, the parent resumes its execution and calls Exit() to terminate.

Now we have the interface file quicksort.h and implementation file quicksort.cpp of the quicksort thread class. We shall write a main program to use and test our implementation. The following is a possible main program in file quicksort-main.cpp:

#include  <iostream>
#include "quicksort.h"

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
     QuickSortThread *quicksortthread;
     int *array;
     int arraySize, i;

     cout << "Please input array size:" << endl;
     cin >> arraySize;

     array = new int[arraySize]; // create the array

     cout << "Please input the array elements: " << endl;
     for (i = 0; i < arraySize; i++)
          cin >> array[i]; 

     cout << "Before quicksort, the array is:" << endl;
     for (i = 0; i < arraySize; i++)
          cout << array[i] << "   ";
     cout << endl;

     // start the quicksort thread
     quicksortthread = new QuickSortThread(0, arraySize - 1, array);

     // wait for the quicksort thread to finish

     cout << "After quicksort, the array is:" << endl;
     for (i = 0; i < arraySize; i++)
          cout << array[i] << "   "; 
     cout << endl;
     return 0;
Click here to download this file (quicksort-main.cpp)

This main program is straightforward. It first reads in an array and prints it before sorting. Next, a thread is created by giving it the lower and upper bound. Then, the main program runs this thread followed by a join. After the only child thread completes, the main program prints out the sorted result.