What do you mean by polymorphism, inheritance, encapsulation, and dynamic binding?

General

Polymorphism – means the ability of a single variable of a given type to be used to reference objects of different
types, and automatically call the method that is specific to the type of object the variable references. In a nutshell,
polymorphism is a bottom-up method call. The benefit of polymorphism is that it is very easy to add new classes
of derived objects without breaking the calling code (i.e. getTotArea() in the sample code shown below) that
uses the polymorphic classes or interfaces. When you send a message to an object even though you don’t know
what specific type it is, and the right thing happens, that’s called polymorphism. The process used by objectoriented
programming languages to implement polymorphism is called dynamic binding.

Inheritance – is the inclusion of behaviour (i.e. methods) and state (i.e. variables) of a base class in a derived
class so that they are accessible in that derived class. The key benefit of Inheritance is that it provides the formal
mechanism for code reuse. Any shared piece of business logic can be moved from the derived class into the
base class as part of refactoring process to improve maintainability of your code by avoiding code duplication. The
existing class is called the superclass and the derived class is called the subclass. Inheritance can also be
defined as the process whereby one object acquires characteristics from one or more other objects the same way
children acquire characteristics from their parents.

There are two types of inheritances:
1. Implementation inheritance (aka class inheritance): You can extend an applications’ functionality by reusing
functionality in the parent class by inheriting all or some of the operations already implemented. In Java, you can
only inherit from one superclass. Implementation inheritance promotes reusability but improper use of class
inheritance can cause programming nightmares by breaking encapsulation and making future changes a problem.
With implementation inheritance, the subclass becomes tightly coupled with the superclass. This will make the
design fragile because if you want to change the superclass, you must know all the details of the subclasses to
avoid breaking them. So when using implementation inheritance, make sure that the subclasses depend only
on the behaviour of the superclass, not on the actual implementation. For example in the above diagram the
subclasses should only be concerned about the behaviour known as area() but not how it is implemented.


2. Interface inheritance (aka type inheritance): This is also known as subtyping. Interfaces provide a mechanism
for specifying a relationship between otherwise unrelated classes, typically by specifying a set of common
methods each implementing class must contain. Interface inheritance promotes the design concept of program to
interfaces not to implementations. This also reduces the coupling or implementation dependencies between
systems. In Java, you can implement any number of interfaces. This is more flexible than implementation
inheritance because it won’t lock you into specific implementations which make subclasses difficult to maintain. So
care should be taken not to break the implementing classes by modifying the interfaces.
Which one to use? Prefer interface inheritance to implementation inheritance because it promotes the design
concept of coding to an interface and reduces coupling. Interface inheritance can achieve code reuse with the
help of object composition. If you look at Gang of Four (GoF) design patterns, you can see that it favours
interface inheritance to implementation inheritance.

Encapsulation – refers to keeping all the related members (variables and methods) together in an object.
Specifying members as private can hide the variables and methods. Objects should hide their inner workings from
the outside view. Good encapsulation improves code modularity by preventing objects interacting with
each other in an unexpected way, which in turn makes future development and refactoring efforts easy.

Being able to encapsulate members of a class is important for security and integrity. We can protect variables
from unacceptable values. The sample code below describes how encapsulation can be used to protect the
MyMarks object from having negative values. Any modification to member variable “vmarks” can only be carried
out through the setter method setMarks(int mark). This prevents the object “MyMarks” from having any negative
values by throwing an exception.

 

 

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