A state machine is a model for designing systems which change based upon their current state and what input they receive.


A finite-state machine (FSM), or simply a state machine, is a mathematical model of computation. It is an abstract machine that can be in exactly one of a finite number of states at any given time. The FSM can change from one state to another in response to some external inputs; the change from one state to another is called a transition. An FSM is defined by a list of its states, its initial state, and the conditions for each transition.


A state machine runs typically as run-to-completion. Such scheduling is a scheduling model in which each task runs until it either finishes, or explicitly yields control back to the scheduler. Run to completion systems typically have an event queue which is serviced either in strict order of admission by an event loop, or by an admission scheduler which is capable of scheduling events out of order, based on other constraints such as deadlines.


In addition to their use in modeling reactive systems presented here, finite state machines are significant in many different areas, including electrical engineering, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, biology, mathematics, and logic. Finite state machines are a class of automata studied in automata theory and the theory of computation. In computer science, finite state machines are widely used in modeling of application behavior, design of hardware digital systems, software engineering, compilers, network protocols, and the study of computation and languages.


Common representations and frameworks for building state machines include state/event tables, UML machines, SDL machines, Mealy machines and Moore machines.