Click here to close now.

Welcome!

AJAX & REA Authors: XebiaLabs Blog, Kathy Thomas, ScriptRock Blog, Elizabeth White, Cloud Best Practices Network

Related Topics: .NET

.NET: Article

Dealing With The C# 2.0 Genericity

Leverage generics for flexible code, the forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features

The forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features. One of those features is genericity. Genericity is not really a new concept. It has been included in some previous languages as ADA, C++, Eiffel, and in the mathematical model of abstract data types (ADT). However, the C# 2.0 notation for genericity (see the first entry in the References section), the integration of genericity in the .NET type system, the efficient implementation of genericity in the CLR-JIT process, and the new generic features included in the reflection mechanism will strengthen .NET programmers' output.

Genericity in .NET rests on the same basic reasons for which .NET promotes strongly typed languages:

  • Readability: Explicit declarations tell readers about the intended meaning of the code
  • Reliability: Thanks to explicit type declarations, a compiler can easily detect inconsistencies and erroneous operations
  • Efficiency: By knowing the types early, a compiler will be able to generate a more efficient code
The first section of this article starts by presenting arrays, the humble and anonymous generic construction embedded in C# and many programming languages. The second section explains how a limited form of generic types can be currently implemented in C#, based on the object type. In the third section the main characteristics and benefits of genericity in C# 2.0 are illustrated, including the notion of constrained genericity. An additional section explains how we can interact between generics and non-generics. Finally, we present an interesting example about simulation of multiple inheritance with genericity.

Arrays: The Implicit Generic Construction Embedded in .NET
Perhaps because arrays are predefined in C# and embedded in the CLR, when using them programmers don't realize that they are dealing with a truly an efficient generic construction.

When you write a declaration like int[] a you are instantiating a generic container, known as an array of items of type int. Any type T can be used to define an array through the notation T[]. A set of common properties and functionalities implicitly applies to arrays no matter what type T is:

  • All array objects are created with the notation new T[k] where k must be a positive expression that defines the numbers of items in the array.
  • An int property Length applies to every array (no matter the type T) to return the number of items of the array. Items are numbered from 0 to Length-1.
  • All items of an array of type T[] have the same type T. Items of a value type T are initialized as such value type (zero for numeric types, false for bool type, and so on) and items of a reference type T are initialized to null.
    1.  For an array T[] a, a[i] acts as a variable of type T denoting the item at position i. When using in the right side, a[i] returns an item of type T, and when using in a left side, a[i]=x; x must be of type T.
Unfortunately, before C# 2.0, programmers could not define a custom parameterized type based on a type T.

Genericity Based on the "Wild card type" Object
Today C# programmers who want to define a stack type of int objects must write the code in Listing 1a. If they wish to define a stack of objects of a type Person they could write the code in Listing 1b (for simplicity, this is only a rough implementation of a stack). Note that both classes Stackofint and StackofPerson have similar codes. They differ only in the type they are based on (int or Person). We can avoid that replication by defining a sole Stack type based on the root type object (see Listing 2).

Here object acts like a wild card type. Since every type in .NET inherits from the base object type, and thanks to the boxing and unboxing features of .NET, programmers can seamless push either a reference object or a value object into a stack. Note that the parameter of Push is of type object, then some calls like s.Push(3) or s.Push(new Person(...)) are correct, because any type conforms to object.

The approach above has the benefit of no code replication, but it has the following flaws:

  • It is not possible to enforce the kind of data to be placed in the stack. As the following code snippet shows, we could create a stack and push an assortment of objects on it.

    Stack s = new Stack(10);
    s.Push(new Date(10,10,2000);
    s.Push(new Person(...));
    s.Push(100);

  • Boxing and unboxing operations that apply when pushing and retrieving objects of value types can be particularly onerous.
  • Because the compiler only knows that objects in the stack have the general type object, when we retrieve the objects from the stack we must cast them to the real type they have:

    int k = (int) s.Pop();
    Person p = (Person) s.Pop();

However casting has a run-time cost, and even worse, it is an error-prone approach because it is possible to write a wrong cast.

It would be significant if we could have the safety and efficiency of specific type definitions (as shown in Listing 1), and, at the same time, we could avoid code replication. Both benefits could be achieved with the forthcoming genericity of C# 2.0.

Genericity in C# 2.0
In C# 2.0 the aforementioned definition of Stack could be best obtained by using the generic notation shown in Listing 3.

Here Stack<T> denotes a generic type and T denotes a type parameter of this generic type. Instantiating this type parameter with an actual type will result in a type of specific stack:

Stack<Person> persons = new Stack<Person>(10);.

Now persons has the type Stack<Per-son>. This has the following benefits:

  • All operations defined in Stack<T> are applied to Stack<Person> without programming duplication
  • Compiler can accept the following code without doing casting:

    Person harry = new Person(...);
    persons.Push(harry);
    Person p = persons.Pop();

  • In an attempt to push on persons, an object of a type not conforming to Person will result in a compilation error:

    persons.Push(23); //Error because 23 is not of type Person

    It is possible to push on the stack persons an object of a subtype of Person. If the class Employee inherits from Person, then the following code is correct:

    persons.Push(new Employee(...));

A type parameter can be used as an instantiation parameter of another generic type. Note that in the Stack<T> definition, the parameter T is used to instantiate the internal array T[] items. It means that when we write Stack<Person>, its instance variable items will be of type Person[].

Furthermore, generic instantiation can be done recursively. For example, a three-dimensional list can be defined as follows:

List<List<List<string>>> stringCube =
new List<List<List<string>>>(5);

Multiple Type Parameters
A generic type can have any number of type parameters. For example, in the generic dictionary type

class Dictionary<TKey, TValue> {...}

TKey must be instantiated with the type that we want to use as the type of the key (the object to search in the dictionary), and TValue must be instantiated as the type of the object associated with the key. Some examples are:

Dictionary<string, string> englishSpanish = new Dictionary<string, string>();
Dictionary<string, long> phoneList = new Dictionary<string, long>();
Dictionary<string, Person> contactList = new Dictionary<string, Person>();

More Stories By Miguel Katrib

Miguel Katrib is a PhD and a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Havana. He is also the head of the WEBOO group dedicated to Web and object-oriented technologies. Miguel is also a scientific advisor in .NET for the software enterprise CARE Technologies, Denia, Spain.

More Stories By Mario del Valle

Mario del Valle is working toward his MS at the Computer Science Department at the University of Havana, and is a software developer at the WEBOO group dedicated to Web and object-oriented technologies.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
.NET News Desk 12/06/05 06:45:57 PM EST

The forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features. One of those features is genericity. Genericity is not really a new concept. It has been included in some previous languages as ADA, C++, Eiffel, and in the mathematical model of abstract data types (ADT). However, the C# 2.0 notation for genericity (see the first entry in the References section), the integration of genericity in the .NET type system, the efficient implementation of genericity in the CLR-JIT process, and the new generic features included in the reflection mechanism will strengthen .NET programmers' output.

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
Today, IT is not just a cost center. IT is an enabler and driver of business. With the emergence of the hybrid cloud paradigm, IT now has increasingly more capabilities to create new strategic opportunities for a business. Hybrid cloud allows an organization to utilize multi-tenant public clouds, dedicated private clouds, bare metal hosting, and the associated support and services for the right use cases through an on-demand, XaaS model. This model of IT creates tremendous opportunities for busi...
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a “Make or Buy” decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud busi...
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, will discuss how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at...
Businesses are looking to empower employees and departments to do more, go faster, and streamline their processes. For all workers – but mobile workers especially – utilizing the cloud to reconnect documents and improve processes without destructing existing workflows can have a dramatic impact on productivity. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Mark Grilli, vice president of Acrobat Solutions marketing at Adobe Systems Incorporated, will outline new ways that the cloud is changing the way peo...
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional S...
WSM International has launched a DevOps services division that offers assessment, consulting and implementation to large enterprises and organizations with complex infrastructures. The concept of DevOps is to blend information technology (IT) software development with operations to optimize the computing infrastructure according to the specific needs of the organization. According to a recent press release from Gartner, "By 2016, DevOps will evolve from a niche strategy employed by large cloud ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that QTS Realty Trust, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing providers of data center facilities and cloud services and a leader in security and compliance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. QTS Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: QTS) is a leading national provider of data center solutions and fully managed services, and a leader in security and compliance...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WSM International (WSM), the world’s leading cloud and server migration services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. WSM is a solutions integrator with a core focus on cloud and server migration, transformation and DevOps services.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY., and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides private all-in-one social intranets allowing workers to securely collaborate from anywhere in the world and from any device. Social, mobile, and eas...
With the arrival of the Big Data revolution, a data professional is expected to master a broad spectrum of complex domains including data processing, mathematics, programming languages, machine learning techniques, and business knowledge. While this mastery is undoubtedly important, this narrow focus on tool usage has divorced many from the imagination required to solve real-world problems. As the demand for analysis increases, the data science community must transform from tool experts to "data...
Sematext is a globally distributed organization that builds innovative Cloud and On Premises solutions for performance monitoring, alerting and anomaly detection (SPM), log management and analytics (Logsene), and search analytics (SSA). We also provide Search and Big Data consulting services and offer 24/7 production support for Solr and Elasticsearch.
The speed of software changes in growing and large scale rapid-paced DevOps environments presents a challenge for continuous testing. Many organizations struggle to get this right. Practices that work for small scale continuous testing may not be sufficient as the requirements grow. In his session at DevOps Summit, Marc Hornbeek, Sr. Solutions Architect of DevOps continuous test solutions at Spirent Communications, will explain the best practices of continuous testing at high scale, which is r...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Emcien will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Emcien’s vision is to let anyone use data to know the future. Emcien has built an automated, predictive analysis product that improves the lives of real people. Emcien allows people to automate their data analysis so they can build a better future.
Hosted PaaS providers have given independent developers and startups huge advantages in efficiency and reduced time-to-market over their more process-bound counterparts in enterprises. Software frameworks are now available that allow enterprise IT departments to provide these same advantages for developers in their own organization. In his workshop session at DevOps Summit, Troy Topnik, ActiveState’s Technical Product Manager, will show how on-prem or cloud-hosted Private PaaS can enable organ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Litmus Automation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Litmus Automation’s vision is to provide a solution for companies that are in a rush to embrace the disruptive Internet of Things technology and leverage it for real business challenges. Litmus Automation simplifies the complexity of connected devices applications with Loop, a secure and scalable clou...
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on T...
SYS-CON Events announced today the IoT Bootcamp – Jumpstart Your IoT Strategy, being held June 9–10, 2015, in conjunction with 16th Cloud Expo and Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Javits Center in New York City. This is your chance to jumpstart your IoT strategy. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but includes hands-on demos and walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of Do-It-Yourself IoT platforms including Arduino, Ras...
Even though it’s now Microservices Journal, long-time fans of SOA World Magazine can take comfort in the fact that the URL – soa.sys-con.com – remains unchanged. And that’s no mistake, as microservices are really nothing more than a new and improved take on the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) best practices we struggled to hammer out over the last decade. Skeptics, however, might say that this change is nothing more than an exercise in buzzword-hopping. SOA is passé, and now that people are ...