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Example pre-Java 5 lock implementation

As part of our discussion of locking mechanisms in Java 5, here's a rough example of how you could implement an interruptable, re-entrant Lock object pre-Java 5, using the wait/notify idiom.

Note that the purpose of this example is to give a very rough idea, basically to say "you could do it but it was ugly".

public class Lock {
  private Object lockObj = new Object();
  private Thread owner;
  private int lockCount;

   * Waits for up to 'maxWait' milliseconds to acquire the lock,
   * and returns true if the lock was acquired.
  public boolean acquireLock(int maxWait) throws InterruptedException {
    Thread currentThread = Thread.currentThread();
    synchronized (lockObj) {
      if (owner == currentThread) {
        return true;
      long waitedSoFar = 0L;
      while (owner != null) {
        long t0 = System.currentTimeMillis();
        long timeToWait = maxWait - waitedSoFar;
        if (timeToWait <= 0)
          return false;
        if (owner != null) {
          waitedSoFar += System.currentTimeMillis() - t0;
      owner = currentThread;
      lockCount = 1;
      return true;
  public void releaseLock() {
    Thread currentThread = Thread.currentThread();
    synchronized (lockObj) {
      if (owner == currentThread) {
        if (lockCount == 0) {
          owner = null;
      } else {
        // Only the owner can release the lock!
        throw new IllegalStateException();

Article written by Neil Coffey (@BitterCoffey).


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