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n. (context computer science English) A section of code, called by the main body of a program, that implements a task.


n. a set sequence of steps, part of larger computer program [syn: routine, subprogram, procedure, function]


In computer programming, a subroutine is a sequence of program instructions that perform a specific task, packaged as a unit. This unit can then be used in programs wherever that particular task should be performed. Subprograms may be defined within programs, or separately in libraries that can be used by multiple programs. In different programming languages, a subroutine may be called a procedure, a function, a routine, a method, or a subprogram. The generic term callable unit is sometimes used.

The name subprogram suggests a subroutine behaves in much the same way as a computer program that is used as one step in a larger program or another subprogram. A subroutine is often coded so that it can be started (called) several times and from several places during one execution of the program, including from other subroutines, and then branch back (return) to the next instruction after the call, once the subroutine's task is done. Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler, and Stanley Gill are credited with the invention of this concept, which they termed a closed subroutine, contrasted with an open subroutine or macro.

Subroutines are a powerful programming tool, and the syntax of many programming languages includes support for writing and using them. Judicious use of subroutines (for example, through the structured programming approach) will often substantially reduce the cost of developing and maintaining a large program, while increasing its quality and reliability. Subroutines, often collected into libraries, are an important mechanism for sharing and trading software. The discipline of object-oriented programming is based on objects and methods (which are subroutines attached to these objects or object classes).

In the compiling method called threaded code, the executable program is basically a sequence of subroutine calls.

Usage examples of "subroutine".

The image on the screen flickered slightly as a new subroutine engaged.

Last time, though, there was another subroutine which went on and on about death being the one great mystery, the primal source of existential angst.

He rarely worked with the programming system used by vari-grav controllers, but he recognized a timer series and a subroutine call keyed to the timer reading.

If a red light flashes, the subroutine converting your speech into a written transcript has missed a word or words and some repetition may be necessary.

The subroutine should make the actual switch in about a tenth of a second.

His fingers danced over keys as he called his zoom-from-orbit subroutine from memory.

PROBE toyed with the idea of loading the female subroutine to observe the effect, but quickly quelled the thought.

I came to awareness as a copyright protection subroutine on a merci show downloadable.

After the two men traded places again, Theory was about to bring up the events of the evening, but discovered that Quench had gotten into a subroutine house that was only quasi-legal.

Quench was too giddy to extract himself from the subroutine, and Theory had to do it for him.

Shepardsville, following the homing probe subroutine that had pinpointed their culprit.

When I converse with it through affinity, I am actually talking to a subroutine operating in the neural strata more or less directly below my feet.

The amount of the strata given over to running that subroutine is dependent purely on the complexity of the task it is performing.

If I were to ask it an exceptionally difficult question, the subroutine would expand to utilize more and more cells until it reached a size appropriate to fulfil the request.

Somehow the murderer used his or her affinity to suspend the subroutine responsible for monitoring the orders given to that particular chimp.