What are OOP's Jargons and Complexities

Xah Lee xah at xahlee.org
Thu Mar 29 17:01:37 CEST 2007

What are OOP's Jargons and Complexities

Xah Lee, 20050128

Classes, Methods, Objects

In computer languages, often a function definition looks like this:

subroutine f (x1, x2, ...) {
  variables ...
  do this or that

In advanced languages such as LISP family, it is not uncommon to
define functions inside a function. For example:

subroutine f (x1, x2, ...) {
  subroutine f1 (x1...) {...}
  subroutine f2 (x1...) {...}

Often these f1 f2 inner functions are used inside f, and are not
relevant outside of f. Such power of the language gradually developed
into a style of programing. For example:

subroutine a_surface () {
  coordinatesList = ...;
  subroutine translate (distance) {...}
  subroutine rotate (angle) {..}

Such a style is that the a_surface is no longer viewed as a function.
But instead, a boxed set of functions, centered around a piece of
datum. And, all functions for manipulating this piece of datum are all
embodied in this function. For example:

subroutine a_surface (arg) {
  coordinatesList = ...
  subroutine translate (distance) {set coordinatesList to translated
  subroutine rotate (angle) {set coordinatesList to rotated version}
  subroutine return () {return coordinatesList}

  if (no arg) {do nothing}
    else { apply arg to coordinatesList }

In this way, one uses a_surface as a piece of datum that are bundled
with its own set of functions:

mySurface = a_surface           // assign subroutine to a variable
mySurface(rotate(angle))        // now the surface datum has been
mySurface(translate(distance))  // now its translated
newSurface = mySurface(return())

So now, a_surface is no longer viewed as a subroutine, but a boxed set
of things centered around a piece of datum. All functions that work on
the datum are included in the boxed set. This paradigm possible in
functional languages has refined so much so that it spread to other
groups and became known as Object Oriented Programing, and complete
languages with new syntax catered to such scheme emerged.

In such languages, instead of writing them like this:

mySurface = a_surface;

the syntax is changed to like this, for example:

mySurface = new a_surface();

In such languages, the super subroutine a_surface is no longer called
a function or subroutine. It is now called a “Class”. And now the
variable holding the function "mySurface" is now called a “Object”.
Subroutines inside the function a_surface are no longer called inner-
subroutines. They are called “Methods”. The act of assigning a super-
subroutine to a variable is called instantiation.

This style of programing and language has become so fanatical that in
such dedicated languages like Java, everything in the language are
Classes. One can no longer just define a variable or subroutine.
Instead, one defines these super-subroutines (classes) that has inner-
subroutines (methods). Every line of code are now inside such super-
subroutine. And one assigns subroutines to variables inside other
subroutines to create objects. And one calls inner-subroutines
(methods) thru these “object” variables to manipulate the data defined
in the super-subroutine. In this fashion, even basic primitives like
numbers, strings, and lists are no longer atomic entities. They are
now subroutines with inner-subroutines.

For example, in Java, a string is a class String. And inside the class
String, there are Methods to manipulate strings, such as finding the
number of chars, or extracting parts of the string. This can get very
complicated. For example, in Java, there are actually two Classes of
strings: One is String, and the other is StringBuffer. Which one to
use depends on whether you intend to change the datum.

So, a simple code like this in normal languages:

a = "a string";
b = "another one";
c = join(a,b);
print c;

or in lisp style

(set a "a string")
(set b "another one")
(set c (join a b))
(print c)

becomes in Java:

public class test {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    String a = new String("a string");
    String b = new String("another one");
    StringBuffer c = new StringBuffer(40);
    c.append(a); c.append(b);

Here, the “new String” creates a String object. The “new
StringBuffer(40)” creates the changeable string object StringBuffer,
with room for 40 chars. “append” is a method of StringBuffer. It is
used to join two Strings.

Notice the syntax “c.append(a)”, which we can view it as calling a
inner-subroutine “append”, on a super-subroutine that has been
assigned to c, where, the inner-subroutine modifies the inner datum by
appending the value of a to it.

And in the above Java example, StringBuffer class has another method
“toString()” used to convert this into a String Class, necessary
because System.out.println's parameter requires a String type, not

For a example of the complexity of classes and methods, see the Java
documentation for the StringBuffer class at
(local copy)

In the same way, numbers in Java have become a formalization of many
classes: Double, Float, Integer, Long... and each has a collection of
“methods” to operate or convert from one to the other.

Instead of

aNumber = 3;
print aNumber^2;

In Java the programer needs to master the ins and outs of the several
number classes, and decide which one to use. (and if a program later
needs to change from one type of number to another, it is often

This Object Oriented Programing style and dedicated languages (such as
C++, Java) have become a fad like wild fire among the programing mass
of ignoramuses in the industry. Partly because of the data-centric new
perspective, partly because the novelty and mysticism of new syntax
and jargonization.

It is especially hyped by the opportunist Sun Microsystems with the
inception of Java, internet, and web applications booms around 1995.
At those times, OOP (and Java) were thought to revolutionize the
industry and solve all software engineering problems, in particular by
certain “reuse of components” concept that was thought to come with
OOP. (we will cover the “reuse” issue in the inheritance section

As part of this new syntax and purity, where everything in a program
is of Classes and Objects and Methods, many complex issues and concept
have arisen in OOP from both the OOP language machinery as well as a
engineering practice.

We now know that the jargon Class is originally and effectively just a
boxed set of data and subroutines, all defined inside a subroutine.
And the jargon Object is just a variable that has been set to this
super-subroutine. And the inner-subroutines are what's called Methods.

The above is a excerpt from the article
“What are OOP's Jargons and Complexities”.
The full article is available at

  xah at xahlee.orghttp://xahlee.org/

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