As a learning exercise (I am not in school - just an old guy trying to learn something new), I am trying to write a logic gate simulation that incorporates propagation delay. The user should also be able to group gates together to create higher-level objects.

I want to apply design patterns to my problem, but I am having a hard time.

I am reading Head First Design Patterns, and I see that the Command pattern is a good way to simulate electrical pulses through a circuit with a delay. I also see that the Composite pattern is a good way to simulate nested units. I just don't know how to mix the two.

In other words, as I loop through my gates, I see that gate 'x' should fire. It has a 15 nanosecond delay, so I create a command with a time stamp of 15 ns from current game time. Where is the dispatcher? In the example of the diner, with the command being the 'Order', the waitress and the cook each dispatch the command and have the option of introducing a delay. If I have a 'composite' gate, does it also have its own dispatcher? Do I need to use a Singleton to manage the queue?

I read what I could find, but I still need a push in the right direction:

  • 9
    Patterns are tools. One doesn't take a hammer and screw driver and think I'll build a house. Instead, start building a house and realize where a hammer would make a job easier.
    – user40980
    Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 4:02
  • That does not exactly answer my question. I have a large Java application already built, which passes messages from gate to gate. However, I am trying to incorporate propagation delay and I find that my application design cannot easily handle it. I was hoping design patterns could help... Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 19:45
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    You are looking for discrete event simulation - like cron but without 'real' time. Build this and then recognize "oh, I am building a composite here - I know how to do that" rather than going and looking for some way to wedge a composite into the solution.
    – user40980
    Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 22:22
  • 1
    In particular, you might find An Efficient Data Structure for the Simulation Event Set from Communications of the ACM August 1977, Volume 20, Number 8 quite useful (a google search for this title should pull up a pdf - I'm having trouble linking to it) - it goes through the concept of implementing the data structure that is significantly improved over a indexed list.
    – user40980
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:31
  • 1
    Here's is a link to the ACM paper hosted at citeseerx.
    – Frank
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


You may want to look at an example from Programming in Scala, as they have a simulator that does what you are trying to do in Java:


By looking at their approach you may find how to change your program to get the behavior you want.

You mentioned that you can't add it easily, so why not explain what your approach is, and what the difficulty that you encounter is, so people can give you some suggestions you may not have considered.

As mentioned, design patterns are ways to talk about what your code is doing, as a shorthand, but the idea of trying to force design patterns in just seems like a bad idea.

Basically a propagation delay shouldn't be hard.

You can have a base class that is Gate, and in her put in a delay.

All gates extend from this, and set the actual delay.

Now, when you are following a signal, when in a gate, that thread may sleep for the simulated delay, but this also means you need to map the real-time to your simulated time, as your simulator will be slower than a real system would be.

If you find that you have too many threads, then just put into a sorted list, by next one on top, and when you pause, just put the time the delay is done and on each loop the simulator will pick those that are now ready, do the next action, and then the next delay happens.

This would be similar to a game loop.


In other words, as I loop through my gates, I see that gate 'x' should fire.

Then you're not using the command pattern.

If I have a 'composite' gate, does it also have its own dispatcher?

Dear god no. The entire point of the composite pattern is that you can supply a composite object to a location that is expecting merely one object. This allows you to compose behavior in a sane way.

Do I need to use a Singleton to manage the queue?

Hell no. Do you only have one cook and one waitress in the entire world? Do they only have one kitchen?

Mixing the command and composite pattern is fairly straight-forward. You have some interface that represents a command. Each concrete command can override (or otherwise satisfy it in non-inheritance languages) that interface to provide some behavior. Your delay is one such simple behavior.

The composite pattern provides two (or more) objects/behaviors behind a single interface. The simplest use for this example would be a composite command that takes two other commands and then when told to execute, triggers the two stored commands. This way you can take your isolated 'delay' command and any arbitrary other command to create a delayed command.

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