Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dog is not Cat

While talking to my friend today, something struck me regarding the notion of object oriented programming, hierarchy of classes and how these concepts are over used.

Objected oriented design is heavily used for thousands of years. For example, constructing a home. If you think about it, home is built in a very modular way (aka object oriented way). Every part of home is a object [door, window, wall, roof etc.]. They can be put together in many ways to construct a home. The final shape of home may change, but the the basic building blocks remain the same.

Now to the point of using this in computer programming. I think object oriented programming is misunderstood in the software industry. People seems to confuse reusability of the code with object orientation. For example, take the hierarchy of animals. Animal is a base class, cat is derived from class Animal. Now let's say I want to declare a new class Dog. Since Dog class was not considered while implementing Cat class, common functionality of Animal (like see, listen etc.) are implemented in Cat class. Now when one want to design Dog class, since Cat already has the functionalities required by Dog, derive Dog from Cat. This is so wrong. Logically when you derive one class from another, you are implying "is-a" relation. That means, by deriving Dog from Cat [just because you have functionality required by Dog is implemented in Cat], you are implying that Dog is a Cat.

Cases like these, it is better to sit back and think a little. May be code re-factoring will help here. One can move the functionalities that are required by both Dog and Cat [may be Elephant, Tiger etc.] can be moved into the Animal class and implement those functionalities in terms of some abstract concepts like eyes, legs, ears etc.

Now enough of messing your brain.. Go back to work and start thinking about the designs you have done earlier and how you could have done it better [not that what you did earlier was wrong].

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