Polymorphism Example

(A C++ example, that is)

	// "Toy" is an abstract base class.
	class Toy {
            public: virtual void playWith() = 0; // Note the shiny "= 0".

// "CapGun" is one of the concrete classes. class CapGun: public Toy { public: virtual void playWith() { /* Pow! */ } };

// "Football" is the other concrete class. class Football: public Toy { public: virtual void playWith() { /* Punt! */ } };

// And "SnotNoseKid::enjoy(Toy&)" is a PolymorphicFunction class SnotNoseKid { // Note how the type used is that of the base class. public: void enjoy(Toy& t) { t.playWith(); } };

void f() { CapGun? gun; Football ball;

SnotNoseKid kid;

kid.enjoy(gun); kid.enjoy(ball); }

The point here is that a "Toy" is just a concept, a certain kind of thingy, not a tangible thingy. (Or, in OOP terms, "Toy" is purely abstract, a class of objects, not a concrete object.)

There is no reasonable implementation for Toy::playWith(). How do you "play" with a toy that you know nothing about? You can look at it... fidget with it... but in the end the way you use a CapGun is nothing like the way you use a Football, even though they are both Toys.


	void g()
		Toy toy; // Compile-time error!  You can't instantiate a Toy
			 // directly.

SnotNoseKid kid;

// This kid doesn't know how to play with such a generic toy, // so it's a good thing the compiler didn't let him become // frustrated. kid.enjoy(toy); }

Why not just use some generic mechanism, such as casting or templates? Well, consider the following code:

	// Note that this doesn't inherit from "Toy".
	class RealGun {
		playWith() { /* Yikes! */ }

void h() { RealGun gun;

SnotNoseKid kid;

kid.enjoy(gun); // Compile-time error! Kid's shouldn't // play with Real Guns! }

So, remember kids: Every gun is a loaded gun, and tell an adult if you find a switch statement.

View edit of November 30, 2004 or FindPage with title or text search