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object-oriented programming

The object-oriented software life-cycle


No approach to software development is likely to survive unless it solves some of the real problems encountered in software engineering practice. In this section we will examine how the object-oriented approach is related to the conceptions of the life-cycle of software and what factors may motivate the adoption of an object-oriented approach to software development. Despite some variations in terminology, there is a generally agreed-on conception of the various phases in the development of a software product. Roughly, a distinction can be made between a phase of analysis, which aims at specifying the requirements a product must meet, a phase of design, which must result in a conceptual view of the architecture of the intended system, and a phase of implementation, covering coding, testing and, to some extent, also maintenance activities. See slide 1-lifecycle. No such consensus exists with respect to the exact relation between these phases. More specifically, there is a considerable variation in methods and guidelines describing how to make the transition from one phase to another. Another important issue is to determine what the products are exactly, in terms of software and documentation, that must result from each phase.

The software life-cycle

With an increase in the number of software products not satisfying user needs, prototyping has become quite popular!

slide: The software life-cycle

The traditional conception of the software life-cycle is known as the waterfall model, which prescribes a strictly sequential transition between the successive phases, possibly in an iterative manner. Strict regulations with respect to validation of the products resulting from each phase may be imposed to avoid the risk of backtracking. Such a rigid approach, however, may cause severe problems, since it does not easily allow for modifying decisions taken earlier. One important problem in this respect is that the needs of the users of a system may change over time, invalidating the requirements laid down in an earlier phase. To some extent this problem may be avoided by better techniques of evoking the user requirements in the analysis phase, for instance by developing a prototype. Unfortunately, the problem of accommodating changing user needs and adapting to changing circumstances (such as hardware) seems to be of a more persistent nature, which provides good reason to look at alternative software development models.

Software development models

The software engineering literature abounds with descriptions of failing software projects and remedies proposed to solve the problem of software not meeting user expectations. User expectations may be succinctly characterized by the RAMP requirements listed in slide 1-requirements. Reliability, adaptability, maintainability and performance are not unreasonable demands in themselves. However, opinions on how to satisfy these criteria clearly diverge.

Requirements -- user needs are constantly evolving

  • Reliability -- incremental development, reuse, synthesis
  • Adaptability -- evolutionary prototyping
  • Maintainability -- incremental development, synthesis
  • Performance -- incremental development, reuse

slide: Requirements -- RAMP

 [Bersoff91] and  [Davis88] explain how the choice of a particular software development model may influence the chances of successfully completing a software project. As already mentioned, rapid throwaway prototyping may help to evoke user needs at an early stage, but does not help much in adapting to evolving user requirements. A better solution in this respect is to adopt a method of evolutionary prototyping. Dependent on the technology used, however, this may cause severe problems in maintaining the integrity and robustness of the system. Less flexible but more reliable is an approach of incremental development, which proceeds by realizing those parts of a system for which the user requirements can be clearly specified. Another means of adapting to changing user requirements is to use a technique of automated software synthesis. However, such an approach works only if the user requirements can be formalized easily. This is not always very likely, unless the application domain is sufficiently restricted. A similar constraint adheres to the reuse of software. Only in familiar application domains is it possible to anticipate how user requirements may change and how to adapt the system appropriately. Nevertheless, the reuse of software seems a very promising technique with which to reduce the cost and time involved in software products without (in principle) sacrificing reliability and performance. See slide 1-development.

Software development models

  • rapid throwaway prototyping -- quick and dirty
  • incremental development -- slowly evolving
  • evolutionary prototyping -- evolving requirements
  • reusable software -- reduces cost and time
  • automated software synthesis -- one level of abstraction higher

slide: Software development models

Two of the early advocates of object-oriented technology, Cox and Meyer, regard the reuse of software as the ultimate solution to the software crisis. However, the true solution is in my opinion not so straightforward. One problem is that tools and technologies are needed to store and retrieve reusable components. That simple solutions do not suffice is illustrated by an anecdote reported by Alan Kay telling how difficult it was to find his way in the Smalltalk class structure after a significant change, despite the browsing facilities offered by the Smalltalk system. Another problem lies in the area of human factors. The incentives for programmer productivity have too long been directed at the number of lines of code to make software reuse attractive. This attitude is also encouraged in universities. Moreover, the reuse of other students' work is usually (not unjustifiably) punished instead of encouraged. However, having a sufficiently large store of reusable software at our disposal will allow us to build software meeting the RAMP requirements stated above, only if we have arrived at sufficiently stable abstractions of the application domain. In the following, we will explore how object-oriented technology is motivated by problems occurring in the respective phases of the software life-cycle and how it contributes to solving these problems.


In academic environments software often seems to grow, without a clear plan or explicit intention of fulfilling some need or purpose, except perhaps as a vehicle for research. In contrast, industrial and business software projects are usually undertaken to meet some explicit goal or to satisfy some need. One of the main problems in such situations, from the point of view of the developers of the software, is to extract the needs from the future users of the system and later to negotiate the solutions proposed by the team. The problem is primarily a problem of communication, of bridging the gap between two worlds, the world of domain expertise on the one hand and that of expertise in the craft of software development on the other. In a number of publications (Coad and Yourdon, 1991a; Wirfs-Brock et al., 1990; and Meyer, 1988)
object-oriented analysis has been proposed as providing a solution to this problem of communication. According to  [CY90], object-oriented techniques allow us to capture the system requirements in a model that directly corresponds with a conceptual model of the problem domain. See slide 1-analysis. %%

Object-Oriented Analysis

  • analysis = extracting the needs

The problem domain -- complex reality
Communication -- with domain experts
Continual change -- user requirements
Reuse -- of analysis results

slide: Object-oriented analysis

Another claim made by proponents of OOP is that an object-oriented approach enables a more seamless transition between the respective phases of the software life-cycle. If this claim is really met, this would mean that changing user requirements could be more easily discussed in terms of the consequences of these changes for the system, and if accepted could in principle be more easily propagated to the successive phases of development. One of the basic ideas underlying object-oriented analysis is that the abstractions arrived at in developing a conceptual model of the problem domain will remain stable over time. Hence, rather than focusing on specific functional requirements, attention should be given to modeling the problem domain by means of high level abstractions. Due to the stability of these abstractions, the results of analysis are likely candidates for reuse. The reality to be modeled in analysis is usually very complex.  [CY90] mention a number of principles or mechanisms with which to manage complexity. These show a great similarity to the abstraction mechanisms mentioned earlier. Personally, I do not feel entirely comfortable with the characterization of the analysis phase given by  [CY90], since to my mind user needs and system requirements are perhaps more conveniently phrased in terms of functionality and constraints than in terms of a model that may simultaneously act as an architectural sketch of the system that is to be developed. However, I do agree with  [CY90], and others, that the products of analysis, that is the documents describing user needs and system requirements, should as far as possible provide a conceptual model of the domain to which these needs and requirements are related. Actually, I do consider the blurring of the distinction between analysis and design, and as we will see later, between design and implementation, as one of the attractive features of an object-oriented approach.

Analysis methods

The phases of analysis and design differ primarily in orientation: during analysis the focus is on aspects of the problem domain and the goal is to arrive at a description of that domain to which the user and system requirements can be related. On the other hand, the design phase must result in an architectural model of the system, for which we can demonstrate that it fulfills the user needs and the additional requirements expressed as the result of analysis.

Analysis methods

  • Functional Decomposition = Functions + Interfaces
  • Data Flow Approach = Data Flow + Bubbles
  • Information Modeling = Entities + Attributes + Relationships
  • Object-Oriented = Objects + Inheritance + Message passing

slide: Analysis methods

 [CY90] discuss a number of methods that are commonly used in analysis (see slide 1-methods). The choice of a particular method will often depend upon circumstances of a more sociological nature. For instance, the experience of a team with a particular method is often a crucial factor for success. For this reason, perhaps, an eclectic method combining the various approaches may be preferable (see, for instance, Rumbaugh {\it et al.}, 1991). However, it is doubtful whether such an approach will have the same benefits as a purely object-oriented approach. See also section methods. I will briefly characterize the various methods mentioned by  [CY90]. For a more extensive description and evaluation the reader is referred to, for example,  [Jones90]. The method of Functional Decomposition aims at characterizing the steps that must be taken to reach a particular goal. These steps may be represented by functions that may take arguments in order to deal with data that is shared between the successive steps of the computation. In general, one can say that this method is not very good for data hiding. Another problem is that non-expert users may not be familiar with viewing their problem in terms of computation steps. Also, the method does not result in descriptions that are easily amenable to change. The method indicated as the Data Flow Approach aims at depicting the information flow in a particular domain by means of arrows that represent data and bubbles that represent processes acting on these data. Information Modeling is a method that has become popular primarily for developing information systems and applications involving databases. As a method, it aims at modeling the application domain in terms of entities, that may have attributes, and relations between entities. An {\em object-oriented} approach to analysis is very similar in nature to the information modeling approach, at least with respect to its aim of developing a conceptual model of the application domain. However, in terms of their means, both methods differ significantly. The most important distinction between objects, in the sense of OOP, and entities, as used in information modeling, to my mind lies in the capacity of objects to embody actual behavior, whereas entities are of a more passive nature.

Concluding this brief exploration of the analysis phase, I think we may safely set as the goal for every method of analysis to aim at stable abstractions, that is a conceptual model which is robust with respect to evolving user requirements. Also, we may state a preference for methods which result in models that have a close correspondence to the concepts and notions used by the experts operating in the application domain.

With respect to notation UML (the Unified Modeling Language, see Appendix UML) is the obvious choice. How to apply UML in the various phases of object-oriented software construction is an altogether different matter.


In an object-oriented approach, the distinction between analysis and design is primarily one of emphasis; emphasis on modeling the reality of the problem domain versus emphasis on providing an architectural model of a system that lends itself to implementation. One of the attractive features of such an approach is the opportunity of a seamless transition between the respective phases of the software product in development. The classical waterfall model can no longer be considered as appropriate for such an approach. An alternative model, the fountain model, is proposed by  [Hend92]. This model allows for a more autonomous development of software components, within the constraints of a unifying framework. The end goal of such a development process may be viewed as a repository of reusable components. A similar viewpoint has originally been proposed by  [Cox86] and  [Meyer88].

Object-Oriented Design

  • design for maintenance and reuse!

Software quality

  • correctness, robustness, extensibility, compatibility

Design projects

slide: Object-oriented design

In examining the primary goals of design,  [Meyer88] distinguishes between reusability, quality and ease of maintenance. Naturally, reusable software presupposes quality, hence both quality and maintainability are important design goals. See slide 1-design. In  [Meyer88] a rough estimate is given of the shift in effort between the phases of the software life-cycle, brought about by an object-oriented approach. Essentially, these figures show an increase in the effort needed for design. This is an immediate consequence of the observation that the development of reusable code is intrinsically more difficult.

To my mind, there is yet another reason for the extra effort involved in design. In practice it appears to be difficult and time consuming to arrive at the appropriate abstract data types for a given application. The implementation of these structures, on the other hand, is usually straightforward. This is another indication that the unit of reuse should perhaps not be small pieces of code, but rather (the design of) components that fit into a larger framework. From the perspective of software quality and maintenance, these mechanisms of encapsulation and inheritance may be characterized as powerful means to control the complexity of the code needed to realize a system. In  [Meyer88] it is estimated that maintenance accounts for 70 % of the actual cost of software. Moreover, adaptive maintenance, which is the adaptation to changing requirements, accounts for a disproportionately large part of the cost. Of primary importance for maintenance, in the sense of the correction of errors, is the principle of locality supported by encapsulation, data abstraction and hiding. In contrast, inheritance is a feature that may interfere with maintenance, since it often breaks down the protection offered by encapsulation. However, to cope with changing requirements, inheritance provides both a convenient and relatively safe mechanism.

Design assignments

Actually designing systems is a complex activity, about which a lot can be said. Nevertheless, to get a good feeling for what is involved in designing a system it is best to gain some experience first. In the remainder of this subsection, you will find the descriptions of actual software engineering assignments. The assignments have been given, in subsequent years, to groups consisting of four or five CS2 students. The groups had to accomplish the assignments in five weeks, a total of 1000 man-hours. That includes formulating the requirements, writing the design specification and coding the implementation. (For the first of the assignments, IDA, C++ was used with the hush GUI library. For the second, MASS, Java with Swing was used.) In both cases we allowed for an iterative development cycle, inspired by a Rapid Application Development (RAD) approach. These assignments will be taken as a running example, in the sense that most examples presented in the book solve in one way or another the problems that may occur when realizing the systems described in the assignments.


An Interior Design Assistant (IDA) is a tool to support an interior design architect. When designing the interior of a house or building, the architect proceeds from the spatial layout and a list of furniture items. IDA must allow for placing furniture in a room. It will check for constraints. For example placing a chair upon a table will be prohibited. For each design, IDA must be able to give information with respect to pricing and the time it takes to have the furniture items delivered. In addition to the design facilities, IDA must also offer a showroom mode, in which the various designs can be inspected and compared with respect to price and delivery time.

slide: IDA


An Agenda Support System assists the user in maintaining a record of important events, dates and appointments. It moreover offers the user various ways of inspecting his or her agenda, by giving an overview of important dates, an indication of important dates on a calendar, and (more advanced) timely notification.

A Multi-user Agenda Support System extends a simple Agenda Support System by providing facilities for scheduling a meeting, taking into account various constraints imposed by the agendas of the participants, as for example a special event for which a participant already has an entry in his or her agenda. A minimal Multi-user Agenda Support System must provide facilities for registering important dates for an arbitrary number of users. It must, moreover, be able to give an overview of important dates for any individual user, and it must be possible to schedule a meeting between an arbitrary subset of users that satisfies the time-constraints for each individual in that particular group.

This minimal specification may be extended with input facilities, gadgets for presenting overviews and the possibility of adding additional constraints. Nevertheless, as a piece of advice, when developing a Multi-user Agenda Support System, follow the KISS principle: Keep It Simple ...

slide: MASS


In principle, the phase of implementation follows on from the design phase. In practice, however, the products of design may often only be regarded as providing a post hoc justification of the actual system. As noted, for instance, in  [
HOB87], an object-oriented approach may blur the distinction between design and implementation, even to the extent of reversing their actual order. The most important distinction between design and implementation is hence the level of abstraction at which the structure of the system is described. Design is meant to clarify the conceptual structure of a system, whereas the implementation must include all the details needed for the system to run. Whatever approach is followed, in the end the design must serve both as a justification and clarification of the actual implementation.

Design is of particular importance in projects that require long-term maintenance. Correcting errors or adapting the functionality of the system on the basis of code alone is not likely to succeed. What may help, though, are tools that extract explanatory information from the code.

Testing and maintenance

Errors may (and will) occur during the implementation as well as later when the system is in operation. Apart from the correction of errors, other maintenance activities may be required, as we have seen previously. In  [Knuth92], an amusing account is given of the errors Knuth detected in the TeX program over a period of time. These errors range from trivial typos to errors on an algorithmic level. See slide 1-errors.

Errors, bugs


  • [A] -- algorithm awry
  • [B] -- blunder
  • [C] -- structure debacle
  • [F] -- forgotten function
  • [L] -- language liability
  • [M] -- mismatch between modules
  • [R] -- reinforcement of robustness
  • [S] -- surprises
  • [T] -- a trivial typo

slide: TeX errors and bugs

An interesting and important question is to what extent an object-oriented approach, and more specifically an object-oriented implementation language, is of help in avoiding and correcting such errors. The reader is encouraged to make a first guess, and to verify that guess later. As an interesting aside, the TeX system has been implemented in a language system called Web. The Web system allows one to merge code and explanatory text in a single document, and to process that document as either code or text. In itself, this has nothing to do with object orientation, but the technique of documentation supported by the Web system is also suitable for object-oriented programs. We may note that the javadoc tool realizes some of the goals set for the Web system, for Java.

Object-oriented language support

Operationally, encapsulation and inheritance are considered to be the basic mechanisms underlying the object-oriented approach. These mechanisms have been realized in a number of languages. (See slide 1-languages. See also chapter 5 for a more complete overview.) Historically, Smalltalk is often considered to be the most important object-oriented language. It has served as an implementation vehicle for a variety of applications (see, for instance, Pope, 1991). No doubt, Smalltalk has contributed greatly to the initial popularity of the object-oriented approach, yet its role is being taken over by C++ and Java, which jointly have the largest community of users. Smalltalk is a purely object-oriented language, which means that every entity, including integers, expressions and classes, is regarded as an object. The popularity of the Smalltalk language may be attributed partly to the Smalltalk environment, which allows the user to inspect the properties of all the objects in the system and which, moreover, contains a large collection of reusable classes. Together with the environment, Smalltalk provides excellent support for fast prototyping.

The language Eiffel, described by  [Meyer88], may also be considered as a pure object-oriented language, pure in the sense that it provides classes and inheritance as the main device with which to structure a program. The major contribution of Eiffel is its support for correctness constructs. These include the possibility to specify pre- and post-conditions for methods, as well as to specify a class invariant, that may be checked before and after each method invocation. The Eiffel system comes with a number of libraries, including libraries for graphics and window support, and a collection of tools for browsing and the extraction of documentation.

The C++ language (Stroustrup, 1991) has a somewhat different history. It was originally developed as an extension of C with classes. A primary design goal of C++ has been to develop a powerful but efficient language. In contrast to Smalltalk and Eiffel, C++ is not a pure object-oriented language; it is a hybrid language in the sense that it allows us to use functions in C-style as well as object-oriented constructs involving classes and inheritance.

Smalltalk -- a radical change in programming

  • rapid prototyping

Eiffel -- a language with assertions

  • correctness

C++ -- is much more than a better C

  • the benefits of efficiency

Java -- the dial-tone of the Internet

  • security

DLP -- introduces logic into object orientation

  • development of knowledge-based systems

slide: Object-oriented languages

The newest, and perhaps most important, object-oriented language around is Java, which owes its popularity partly to its tight connection with the Internet. Java comes with a virtual machine that allows for running Java programs (applets) in a browser, in a so-called sandbox, which protects the user from possibly malicious programs.

As the final language in this brief overview, I wish to mention the distributed logic programming language DLP (see Eliëns, 1992). The DLP language combines logic programming with object-oriented features and parallelism. I mention it, partly because the development of this language was my first involvement with OOP. And further, because it demonstrates that other paradigms of programming, in particular logic programming, may be fruitfully combined with OOP. The language DLP provides a high level vehicle for modeling knowledge-based systems in an object-oriented way.

A more extensive introduction to the Smalltalk, Eiffel, C++, Java and DLP languages is given in the appendix.

(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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