Custom Events with RxJS

Publisher-subscriber event model on top of Reactive Programming.

Event-Based Programming is natural to any GUI based interface. HTML DOM¹ offers an inbuilt Event Notification model, but it is only useful when dealing with DOM Elements. There is no support for non-DOM elements.

Web applications have grown in complexity with time; also, JavaScript started participating in backend applications, which in turn made the world see JavaScript as more than HTML DOM manipulation gig.

This article showcases building up a custom event publisher-subscriber model on top of Reactive Programming for non-DOM elements.

Setting up Stage

Event-Driven Programming

Event-Driven programming paradigm² introduces an intuitive flow of control based upon events.

Button is clicked => show dialog.


  • One that emits events can be called Event Publisher or Event Emitter or Event Dispatcher.
  • One that listens to events is called Event Subscriber or Event Listener or Event Handler.

In general, Publisher-Subscriber or PubSub term is used collectively for event publishers and even subscribers.

Reactive Programming

Reactive Programming paradigm² introduces the processing of streams of data asynchronously. It is a trending paradigm² these days.

RxJS is a reactive programming extension for JavaScript. You would build an event notification model on top of it by modeling events as a stream of data.

In Action

Problem Statement

Consider modeling Thermostat, when room temperature crosses a certain threshold (30°C), AC would turn up, and windows would close.


Consider class Thermostat which encapsulates the logic of monitoring and publishes events:

  • above: when temperature crossed above 30°C (threshold) from lower value.
  • below: when temperature crossed below or equal to 30°C (threshold) from higher value.

Data Structure for holding event structure

RxJS offers Subject which can be used to emit events to multiple subscribers.

class Thermostat {
  constructor(sensor) {
    // data structure for holding subscriptions
    this.subscriptions = {
      above: new Subject(),
      below: new Subject()

Notice, there are two Subject objects. You can also create a single Subject object named ThresholdCrossed with direction above or below. Separating the event or combining the event is Design Concern which may depend upon many factors.

Subscription API for Event

on API for register action based upon event. Subject offers subscribe API which would be called whenever there is new data is available.

on(event, action) {
  // sanatize event left code
  this.subscriptions[event].subscribe(v => action(v));

Whenever next is called the on API would be triggered; by design, the callback would be called.

Publishing Events

Consider monitor method which detects the rise and falls in temperature and publishes event accordingly.

 monitor(currentTemperature) {
  // when temperature cross above THRESHOLD
  if (
    currentTemperature > THRESHOLD
    && this.lastRecordedTemperature <= THRESHOLD
  ) {

    // publish event

  } else if (
    currentTemperature <= THRESHOLD
    && this.lastRecordedTemperature >= THRESHOLD
  ) {

    // publish event

  this.lastRecordedTemperature = currentTemperature;

Subscribing for event 

When the temperature is below 30°C then ac should go off, and the window should open; the opposite should happen for above event 30°C.

thermostat.on('below', (t) => { = false
  this.window = true

thermostat.on('above', (t) => { = true
  this.window = false

Wiring all pieces together. A simulation is built:

Try increasing or decreasing temperature.


Any variation you make with the above code itself a pattern:

  • Keeping event subscription data in the mediator class of Event-Emitter and Event-Listener is an in-memory Event Bus pattern.
  • If the event holds enough information that Event-Listener doesn’t look back to Event-Emitter; it is Event Carried State Transfer pattern
  • If you store all events in datastore, it is Event Sourcing pattern (possible for backend side).
  • If there is a network partition between Event Publisher and Event Subscriber, then collectively, it is a Reactive System. It is build using queuing technologies (possible for backend side).
  • An event may contain a reference or link back to its source; it is Source Aware Event pattern. In HTML DOM, each event has a field named target to point back to its source.


  1. Document Object Model is the parsed tree object representation of HTML document.
  2. A paradigm is a conceptual view of programming elements.


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