Friday, April 18, 2008

Mixins - An OO Idea Worth Getting To Know

A while back I commented about how I was impressed the PLT Scheme OO library included a keyword/concept I hadn't heard of before: pubment.

Today, for the first time, I used another concept which I've only seen implemented in PLT Scheme: mixins.

The idea behind a mixin is simple, but unexpected: you write code that has a parameterized superclass. And then, at run time, pass in the super class you'd like your code to use. Or as stated here:

We're taking in a superclass, and "mixing in" a few more methods to create a new class.

While I had seen this feature documented in the manual, it wasn't until I read this recipe that I both Got It and appreciated how I could use this capability to solve real problems.

Even if you don't program in Scheme, it's worth taking a few minutes out and reviewing that recipe. Just like pubment, it's good to remind yourself that there's more to OO than Classes, Interfaces, Methods and Fields.

Perhaps what I like most about mixins is that they have the same play-doh feel that most of Scheme does. Want to, at run time, generate a class dynamically? No problem, easy to do. It's just a whole lot more flexible than the the Java OO world I've spent quite a bit of time in.

4 comments:

  1. Yet another contribution to the programming world from Smalltalk :)

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  2. Mixins (and much, much more) can be accomplished in Java using AOP. Spring AOP, AspectJ, JBoss AOP, and probably others all have support for mixins.

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  3. Ahhh, Smalltalk.

    Simon, I can't say I'm surprised at all.

    One day I'm so going to have to learn it...

    -Ben

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  4. Helmy -

    That's a good point. I'm so thinking core Java of a few years ago.

    Do you have any experience with using Java AOP? Have you found it to make it cleaner to solve problems?

    ReplyDelete

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