In a strict sense, real-time refers to applications that have a time critical nature. Consider a data acquisition and control program for an automobile engine. Assume that the data must be collected and processed once each revolution of the engine shaft. This means that data must be read and processed before the shaft rotates another revolution, otherwise the sampling rate will be compromised and inaccurate calculations may result. Contrast this with a program that prints payroll checks. The speed at which computations are made has no bearing on the accuracy of the results. Payroll checks will be generated with perfect results regardless of how long it takes to compute net pay and deductions.
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