The concept of objects

December 2016

The concept of objects

Object-oriented programming consists of arranging data in modular sets of elements of real world information (called a domain. These data elements are called objects. This data is grouped according to the main real world characteristics of those elements (size, color, etc...).

The object approach is an idea that has been well proven. Simula was the first programming language to implement the concept of classes in 1967! In 1976, Smalltalk implemented the concepts of encapsulation, aggregation and inheritance (the principle concepts of the object-oriented programming). On the other hand, several object-oriented programming languages have been implemented on a global scale (Eiffel, Objective C, Loops, etc.).

The difficulty with this modular approach is the creation of an abstract representation, in the form of objects, entities that actually exist (dog, car, lightbulb...) or virtually exist (social security, weather, etc.).

An object is characterised by several concepts:

  • Attributes: this is the data that characterises an object. These are variables which store data relating to the state of an object.
  • Methods (often called member functions): An object's methods characterise its behavior, meaning all actions (called operations) that the object itself is capable of performing. These operations enable the object to respond to external requests (or to act on other objects). Furthermore, operations are closely linked to attributes, as their actions may depend on or even modify attribute values.
  • Identity: The object has an identity, which distinguishes it from other objects, regardless of its state. This identity is usually created using an identifier which is derived from the type of item (for example: a product may be denoted by a code, a car by a model number, etc.)

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