Saturday, July 23, 2011

Object in C++

Objects defined

So what is an object? An object is a component of a program that knows how to perform certain actions and to interact with other pieces of the program. Functions have previously been described as "black boxes" that take an input and spit out an output. Objects can be thought of as "smart" black boxes. That is, objects can know how to do more than one specific task, and they can store their own set of data. Designing a program with objects allows a programmer to model the program after the real world. A program can be broken down into specific parts, and each of these parts can perform fairly simple tasks. When all of these simple pieces are meshed together into a program, it can produce a very complicated and useful application.

Let's say that we are writing a text-based medieval video game. Our video game will have two types of characters: the players and the monsters. A player has to know the values of certain attributes: health, strength, and agility. A player must also know what type of weapon and what type of armor they possess. A player must be able to move through a maze, attack a monster, and pick up treasure. So, to design this "player object", we must first separate data that the player object must know from actions that the player must know how to execute. The definition for a player object could be:

Player Object:
    type of weapon
    type of armor
    attack monster
    get treasure

Member Data and Member Functions

Data that an object keeps track of is called member data and actions that an object knows how to do are called member functions. Member data is very similar to variables in a regular function in the sense that no other object can get access to that data (unless given permission by the object). Member data keeps its values over the life of an object.

Objects and Instances –

There is a very important distinction between an object and an instance of an object. An object is actually a definition, or a template for instances of that object. An instance of an object is an actual thing that can be manipulated. For instance, we could define a Person object, which may include such member data as hair color, eye color, height, weight, etc. An instance of this object could be "Dave" and Dave has values for hair color, eye color, etc. This allows for multiple instances of an object to be created. Let's go back to the medieval video game example and define the monster object.

Monster Object:
   skin thickness
   tail spikes
   attack player with claws
   attack player with tail
Now, our game could have one instance of a player:
Player Instance #1:
    health = 16
    strength = 12
    agility = 14
    type of weapon = "mace"
    type of armor = "leather"

and our game could have two instances of monsters:
a tough one:
and a weak one:
Monster Instance #1:
   health = 21
   skin thickness = 20
   claws = "sharp"
   tail spikes = "razor sharp"
Monster Instance#2:
   health = 9
   skin thickness = 5
   claws = "dull"
   tail spikes = "quite dull"

Notice how an instance of an object contains information on member data, but holds nothing about member functions. Every instance of the Monster object performs "attack player" the same way. There is a series of steps in this member function. But each instance of the monster has its own value for the member data. In the preceding example, we can tell the two monsters in our game apart, because of their member data. One monster is tough and the other monster is weak.
Let's say that we had a "Battle" function in our game. The pseudocode for it may go something like the following:

Function Battle(parameters: _player = the Player Object instance
                            _monster = the Monster Object instance)
   turn = PLAYER;
   while ((_player's health > 0) AND (_monster's health > 0)) {
      if (turn == PLAYER){     
         player attack's monster;
         turn = MONSTER;
      else {
         monster attack's player
         turn = PLAYER;
} // END FUNCTION Battle

In the "attack" phase, the attacking person would somehow deduct points from the defending person. Let's say that the player was fighting with the weaker monster. The weaker monster's health value is 9. If the player attacked the monster and did 5 points of damage to the monster, the monster's new health value would be 4. The monster keeps this value as its health value until it is undated again. So if the monster ran away at this point, and later in the game, the player discovered the weaker monster again, it's health value would still be 4.


Objects are ways of bundling parts of programs into small, manageable pieces. Objects are simply a definition for a type of data to be stored. An instance of an object contains meaningful information, these are manipulated by the program. There can be more than one instance of an object. Instances of objects keep track of information, called member data, or instance variables. This data is kept track of by the instance until it no longer exists. Object instances also know how to perform certain functions, called member functions, or class functions. Every instance of an object performs the same steps when carrying out a member function, although the steps can be influenced by the instances' present member data.

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