Callbacks | Async Fundamentals

Advance your understanding of callback-based APIs, callback behaviors and patterns in JavaScript. Master event loop, timers, async control flows, composition patterns, scoping, error handling, lazy evaluation, and many other relevant topics. Use latest ES6 features and functional helpers to make your code clean, safe, and modern. After this tutorial you'll be able to twist and bend any callback-based code like a true magician!

FreeJavaScriptNode

Topics

1Callbacks (7 exercises)
2Sync vs Async (12 exercises)
3Queue priorities (4 exercises)
4Think async (12 exercises)
5Control flow (9 exercises)
6Composition (7 exercises)
7Error handling (13 exercises)
8Integral (6 exercises)

70 exercises with solutions and explanations.

Before you start

1. We believe that a learning environment should be as realistic as possible. There are no Paste-n-Run sandboxes for coding tasks at Paqmind. You should use your own editor to write code and your own machine to run it – like a real programmer does.

2. Make sure you know the required theory, at least in the first approximation. Terms from the Topics should sound familiar for you. Refer to the Theory list below and always search for more. Start tomorrow (or next week) but start prepared.

3. Don't expect to pass the tutorial in one sitting. It's not a usual Easy-Level stuff made to massage your ego. We tried to make each exercise challenging, sometimes even discomfortable, yet enlightening. If you're here just to verify your knowledge, it may take a few days. But if you're new to the topic – it may easily take two weeks or more.

Refer to the How-to page for more information.

From the author

Sorry, couldn't resist a classic meme:

Callbacks

Now with all seriousness. We hear you asking "Do I even need to learn basic callbacks once there are Promises, Async-Await, Observables and newer stuff like that in JavaScript?! Aren't they just, you know, outdated?"

Let us clarify a few things. Take Promises, for example. You can see them as a set of async helpers that cover most everyday cases. Once a month you may get a special one where errors have to be handled differently, requests have to be arranged unusually, etc. Which will paralize you. You'll spend hours searching StackOverflow, asking random people for instant help, feeling humiliated. Or otherwise, in case you managed to finish this tutorial, you'll spend 10 minutes, writing your own special helper, without even seeing "the problem".

Second argument is that many popular libaries are callback based: Express, Passport, even some newer products use them intentionally as the "lowest common denominator" of async programming. So yes, callbacks are very relevant and will probably remain such, until the end of JavaScript (a long time ahead).


In this tutorial we deliberately decided to avoid "real" APIs like Node's FS or Browser's Fetch in favor of "abstract" setTimeout / setInterval-based code. There are three decisive reasons for this.

1. The best learning model is to learn "one thing at a time". Learning an API and learning its underlying concepts are two different tasks. Learning how to combine those concepts together and apply them to solve a real-world problem is a third task.

2. Real APIs are almost always saturated with extra "noise". For example, fetch will require you to always apply two promise calls in a row, so you may take it as a norm (which it isn't). FS.readFile will require you to learn buffers, to think about filesystem specifics. Again, basically, you have to switch from the original intent of "learning some async" to learning stuff that slows you down and may even be irrelevant (assuming so many possible JS application fields).

3. Timeouts and intervals aren't only extremely important on themselves, they are perfect as stubs for actual file, db, network, whatever "real" APIs. You'll also find them absolutely indispensable in tests, library code and many other key places. You can't overpractise them.

To summarize, we believe that solid knowledge of async patterns should be built upon abstractions (i.e. ideas) rather than copy-paste driven "realistic" snippets. You'll have zero problems with understanding such snippets and real-world JavaScript APIs, once you get the principles.

Tools

Theory


About the Author

Ivan Kleshnin
Senior Fullstack Engineer

Experienced software engineer, mentor and entrepreneur. 12+ years in webdev. Generalist. Proponent of minimalism and 改善 (kaizen). In his free time, Ivan creates learning materials and blogs about programming and web development. As a mentor, prefers to give knowledge that will remain relevant over the years.