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An alternative view of class inheritance and interfaces. In the real world, people use objects to do things. · For example, you might have ridden here on your bicycle: a particular, specific, concrete object.  In the real world, objects are grouped into classes :

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objects and classes in the real world

In the real world, people use objects to do things.

·For example, you might have ridden here on your bicycle: a

particular, specific, concrete object.

 In the real world, objects are grouped into classes:

·Everybody’s individual bicycle is a member of the class bicycle.

Real-world objects group into classes because they all share properties & abilities that define those classes:

·      all bicycles can carry people,

·      all bicycles can be steered,

·      all bicycles can speed up or slow down.

·      all bicycles have two wheels,

·     all bicycles have pedals.

 In the real world, to make a new object (build a new bicycle), we construct a thing with the properties & abilities of the class we want.

If we know some object is a member of a class, we can tell what properties and abilities it has, and how to use it.

Objects and classes in the real world
objects and classes in java

In java, programs do things with and to objects.

·      For example, if I want to use a description of my bicycle in a program, I have to create a bicycleobject to represent my bicycle. To represent your bicycle, I need another bicycle object for it.

 In Java, objects are grouped into classes:

·      Every bicycle object in my program is a member of class bicycle.

All java objects that are a member of a class have the properties (variables) & abilities (methods) that define that class. For class bicycle:

·void Turn_left(); void Turn_right();

·int handlebar_direction;

·void Speed_up() void Slow_down();.

·int pedal_turns_per_min;

·int front_wheel_size int back_wheel_size;

To make a new object, we construct a new member of a class bicycle newBike = new Bicycle();.

If we know an object is a member of a class (e.g. if it is in a variable of type bicycle), then we know what variables and methods the object has.

Objects and classes in Java

class Bicycle

Bicycle objects (each dot represents a different particular bicycle)

In the real world, and in Java, the objects in a class (the members of the class) all have the properties (variables) and abilities (methods) which define that class.

class Bicycle(every dot inside the circle has all the variables and methods that define a bicycle)

These outsiders are not members of the class (they do not have the required properties and abilities, or variables and methods).


class Bicycle

A subclass: tandem

Since tandems are a type of bicycle, they have all

properties and abilities that define bicycles. But they have further, more specific properties, which define the subtype tandem (i.e. carrying two people, having two seats)

The subclass racer: all the properties of bicycles, and some extra that define the subclass.

In the real world, classes have subclasses (types) and superclasses (broader groupings). Some subclasses (types) types of Bicycle are tandem and racer. Bicycle itself is a subclass of the broader superclass vehicle.

The superclass of vehicles.


In java, the relationship between subclasses and superclasses is given by the keyword extends.

Class Tandem extends Bicycle

As well as having all the variables

& methods of class Bicycle,

each Tandem object has

String frontPerson;

String backPerson;

void speedup_front();

void speedup_back();

etc. (methods and variables

specific to tandems)

Every dot (object) inside the Bicycle circle (class) has all the variables and methods that define a bicycle. Since Bicycle is inside (extends) vehicle , those objects also have all the variables & methods of vehicles.

class Bicycle extends Vehicle

Class Racer extends Bicycle



In our drawings, class Bicycle extends vehicle.

We should have a class definition for vehicle; Bicycle inherits methods & variables from that.

What would be in a class definition for vehicle?

Remember, the vehicle class should include

·     cars,

·     airplanes,….

·     Ships,

all sorts of things that are very different from bicycles.

All have certain common characteristics because they are vehicles: they move, turn, carry people…

But all these things will have different particular ways of turning, different ways of speeding up and down etc.


abstract class Vehicle{

int num_seats, num_people; // some vars for class:

int curr_X, curr_Y; // location of vehicle

int curr_angle; // direction it’s pointing


curr_X = 0; curr_Y = 0;

curr_angle = 0; } // constructor

int distance_to(int loc_x, loc_y){

return sqrt((loc_x–curr_x)^2 +(loc_y–curr_y)^2) }

abstract void Turn_left();

abstract void Turn_right();

abstract void Speed_up();

abstract void Slow_down();


These abstract methods are undefined: they must be given definitions in subclasses of vehicle. Different types or subclasses of vehicle will define these methods in different ways.


Class Bicycle extends Vehicle{// location, angle,

int pedal_turns_per_min; // seats, etc. inherited

int handlebar_direction;


super(); //constructs a vehicle

num_seats = 1;

pedal_turns_per_min = 0;

handlebar_direction = 0; }

void Turn_left(){ handlebar_direction++; }

void Turn_right() { handlebar_direction--; }

} // and many other methods …


Class Airplane extends Vehicle{

int fuel, tail_angle; // location, angle, seats

int left_flap_angle; // people, are all inherited

int right_flap_angle;


super(); //constructs a vehicle first

fuel = 10000; num_seats = 200;

left_flap_angle=0; right_flap_angle=0;


void Turn_left(){ left_flap_angle++;




}//and many other methods


what can go into a superclass variable
What can go into a superclass variable?

Only objects that are members of Vehicle can go into this variable V.

Vehicle V;

V = new Bicycle();

Create a new Bicycle object and put it into variable V.

This works because Bicycle is a subclass of the class Vehicle.

V = new Airplane();

Same idea: create a new Airplane object and put it into variable V.

If we have a variable of a particular superclass, objects from any of its subclasses can go in the variable (they are members of the superclass)

What can we do with these variables? If a variable is of a particular class (e.g. Vehicle) java only allows us use the methods and variables defined for that class.

This means that, even though the object in our Vehicle variable is a Bicycle , we can only use the methods in that object that are defined for Vehicle.

what use are superclasses and inheritance
What use are superclasses and inheritance?

 Saves programming time:

If you define methods and variables in a superclass, you don’t have to write them again in subclasses (the things we put into vehicle are inherited in Bicycle, and hence in tandem and racer…)

More importantly: it can help make programs more adaptable. Why?

We can write code for doing something using a superclass (e.g. vehicle)

and then

Objects from any subclass of that superclass can be used in that code (no matter how different they are). This is because the subclass objects have all the variables and methods of the superclass (are members of the superclass), and so can be used wherever the superclass is used.

This makes our code more adaptable and reusable.


Variables for distance to and angle to the target point

Turn towards the target

If we’re pointing at the target, start moving towards it

Code steering a vehicle to a target location

(co-ords TargetX TargetY)

Vehicle V = new Bicycle();

int TargetX, targetY, dist_to, angle_to;

boolean at_target = false;

while (! at_target){

angle_to = V.angle_to(targetX, targetY);

if ( angle_to > 0) {V.turn_left();}

if ( angle_to < 0) {V.turn_right();}

dist_to =V.distance_to(targetX, targetY);

if (dist_to != 0) {

if (dist_to =< V.speed) {V.slow_down(); }

if (dist_to > V.speed) {V.speed_up(); }


if (dist_to == 0) {

At_target = true;




polymorphism generic programming
Polymorphism (generic programming)

In the above code, we guide a Bicycle to the target co-ords:

Vehicle V = new Bicycle();

However, we could put a tandem, airplane, car… into the code and it would work unchanged.

Vehicle V = new Tandem();

Vehicle V = new Airplane();

Vehicle V = new Car();

Why will it work? Because those objects are all types of vehicle, and so can go into a Vehicle variable, and be used in the code.

This is called polymorphism (literally “many shapes”: here we mean “many types of things going into one piece of code”). This style of programming is called “generic programming”.

about polymorphism
About polymorphism
  • The guidance code above uses the various methods defining vehicles (turnleft(),turnright(),speedup()…)
  •  Because those methods are part of the definition of the class vehicle, they can be used with the variable V, (which is of type vehicle, and so has those methods).
  • Any object that is member of a subclass of vehicle:
  • new Bicycle(); new Airplane(); new tandem();
  • can go into a variable of type vehicle.
  •  if vehicle methods (turn_left(),turn_right()) are called for those objects, the right method is used for the right object:
  • if V contains a new Bicycle() , then V.turn_left() will change the handlebar_direction.
  • if V contains a new airplane() , then V.turn_left() will change the left and right flaps and the tail.
single inheritance instanceof

And we can convert from a superclass to a subclass using a cast (as we’ve seen before)

Single inheritance+ instanceof

Each class in java can only extend one superclass:

class Airplane extends Vehicle {

class Airplane extends Vehicle, Weapon {

won’t work

We can find out if a given object is a member of a given class by using instanceof

if (V instanceof Bicycle) {


Bicycle B = (Bicycle) V;

The fact that each class can only extend one superclass is a bit of a limitation when we’re doing generic programming.

Java provides a more flexible structure, called an interface

more flexible interfaces
more flexible: interfaces

What sort of objects will fill the V Vehicle variable in the ‘guidance’ code above? They will all have methods:

abstract void Turn_left();

abstract void Turn_right();

abstract void Speed_up();

abstract void Slow_down();

and whatever other methods and variables are defined for Vehicle. (such as num_seats, num_people etc.)

Our guidance code doesn’t need to be limited to vehicles only; it would be useful to be able to guide objects that don’t necessarily have to carry people, have seats…

In fact, for something to take part in the guidance code, it needs only to have the methodsturn_left turn_right speed_up and slow_down. These are the only methods of the V Vehicle that are actually used in that code.

We can define these methods as an interface for that code.

interfaces in java
Interfaces in Java

An interface is a particular kind of class used as a variable type in a different class or piece of code. All objects which that code manipulates must implement the interface. The interface describes how objects used by that code must behave.

An interface consists of a set of method declarations with no code (like abstract methods). Classes which implement an interface must give definitions for all those methods.

interface GuidableObject{

public void TurnLeft();

public void TurnRight();

public void speed_up();

public void slow_down();

public int curr_speed();

public int distance_to();

public int angle_to();

public void Stop();


An interface specifies what is required of an object for a particular piece of code to operate on that object. This interface specifies what methods are required for an object to be guidable to a target.


Now, if anything implements the GuidableObject interface, it is saying that it is a guidable object, and so can be used in the “guide to target” code:

class Vehicle implements GuidableObject{

class SmartBomb implements GuidableObject{

class Robot implements GuidableObject{

If a class implements an interface, that means it has all the methods listed in the interface, and can thus take part in code using that interface.

We can declare variables using an interface as the type:

GuidableObject V; //GuidableObject is an interface

Any object that is a member of a class (or a subclass of a class) that implements that interface, can go into that variable (because it has the methods required for that interface)

guidance code with interface
Guidance code with interface

int targetX, targetY;

boolean at_target = false;

GuidableObject V = new bicycle();

//or new Robot(), SmartBomb()…

while (! at_target){

int angle_to = V.angle_to(targetX, targetY);

if ( angle_to > 0) {V.turn_left();}

if ( angle_to < 0) {V.turn_right();}

int Dist_to =V.distance_to(targetX, targetY);

int speed = V.curr_speed();

if ((dist_to != 0) {

if (dist_to =< speed) {V.slow_down(); }

if (dist_to > speed) {V.speed_up(); }


if (dist_to == 0) {

At_target = true; V.stop();



classes interfaces inheritance
Classes, interfaces, & inheritance

Class inheritance in java is strict: each class extends only one superclass, and inherits only from that class. Java does not allow multiple inheritance: Statements like

class X extends OneClass,OtherClassare wrong.

For interfaces, the situation is different: a single class can implement multiple interfaces. This statement is correct java syntax:

class X implements MyInterface,OtherInterface

(To implement an interface a class just provides the correct methods: a single class can provide methods for a number of interfaces)

A class can simultaneously extend another class and implement a number of interfaces:

class X extends OneClass implements MyInterfaceetc. is correct Java syntax.