Monday, September 19, 2011

Inheritance in JAVA Programming Language

Inheritance in JAVA Programming Language:

Inheritance is the process by which one object acquires the properties of another object. This is important because it supports the concept of hierarchical classification. As mentioned earlier, most knowledge is made manageable by hierarchical (that is, top-down) classifications. For example, a Golden Retriever is part of the classification dog, which in turn is part of the mammal class, which is under the larger class animal. Without the use of hierarchies, each object would need to define all of its characteristics explicitly. However, by use of inheritance, an object need only define those qualities that make it unique within its class. It can inherit its general attributes from its parent. Thus, it is the inheritance mechanism that makes it possible for one object to be a specific instance of a more general case. Let’s take a closer look at this process.

Most people naturally view the world as made up of objects that are related to each other in a hierarchical way, such as animals, mammals, and dogs. If you wanted to describe animals in an abstract way, you would say they have some attributes, such as size, intelligence, and type of skeletal system. Animals also have certain behavioral aspects; they eat, breathe, and sleep. This description of attributes and behavior is the class definition for animals.
If you wanted to describe a more specific class of animals, such as mammals, they would have more specific attributes, such as type of teeth, and mammary glands. This is known as a subclass of animals, where animals are referred to as mammals’ superclass. Since mammals are simply more precisely specified animals, they inherit all of the attributes from animals. A deeply inherited subclass inherits all of the attributes from each of its ancestors in the class hierarchy.

Inheritance interacts with encapsulation as well. If a given class encapsulates some attributes, then any subclass will have the same attributes plus any that it adds as part of its specialization (see Figure 2-2). This is a key concept which lets object-oriented programs grow in complexity linearly rather than geometrically. A new subclass inherits all of the attributes of all of its ancestors. It does not have unpredictable interactions with the majority of the rest of the code in the system.


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