Generics in the Java Programming Language

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JDK 1.5 introduces several extensions to the Java programming language. One of these is the introduction of generics. This tutorial is aimed at introducing you to generics. You may be familiar with similar constructs from other languages, most notably C++ templates. If so, you’ll soon see that there are both similarities and important differences. If you are not familiar with look-a-alike constructs from elsewhere, all the better; you can start afresh, without unlearning any misconceptions. Generics allow you to abstract over types. The most common examples are container types, such as those in the Collection hierarchy. Here is a typical usage of that sort: List myIntList = new LinkedList(); // 1 myIntList.add(new Integer(0)); // 2 Integer x = (Integer) myIntList.iterator().next(); // 3 The cast on line 3 is slightly annoying. Typically, the programmer knows what kind of data has been placed into a particular list. However, the cast is essential. The compiler can only guarantee that an Object will be returned by the iterator. To ensure the assignment to a variable of type Integer is type safe, the cast is required. Of course, the cast not only introduces clutter. It also introduces the possibility of a run time error, since the programmer might be mistaken. What if programmers could actually express their intent, and mark a list as being restricted to contain a particular data type? This is the core idea behind generics. Here is a version of the program fragment given above using generics: List myIntList = new LinkedList(); // 1’ myIntList.add(new Integer(0)); //2’ Integer x = myIntList.iterator().next(); // 3’

Generics in the Java Programming Language

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