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Don Burleson Blog 







Basic Principles of Object-Oriented Technology

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Today computer hardware continues to increase in power and speed at a phenomenal rate.  Software, on the other hand, remains difficult to develop and maintain.  The job a systems analysts is to talk to their clients to define a new system, or to define the nature of updates to an existing computer system.  Usually structured methods like functional decomposition, top down design, and data flow diagrams are used in their analysis.  The analyst writes the specs and then ask the client to sign off on the specs.  Essentially, the end-user must approve the analysis saying this is what they want, while the analyst is saying that this is what I will deliver.  This specification is then cast in stone and will never change during the development of the system.  Yeah right.

The business world today is changing at an unprecedented rate and computer systems need to be able to change as quickly as the technology.  Unfortunately most computer system projects today seldom are done on time or within budget, and when the project is finished it can be extremely difficult and expensive (if not impossible) to make updates to the system.  What is needed is a new approach to developing computer systems, one that can handle both small and large systems.  Maintenance costs must be kept to a minimum, the system must be flexible, and the specification must be flexible to meet changing business needs.

To achieve this goal, we need to break out of the software paradigm that has been around for the last fifty years.  Object-oriented technology (OT) will help to break the existing software paradigm and meet the changing business needs of today.

Object-oriented technology

The next logical step of database design is the object-oriented technology method.  Object-oriented databases will not only store data, the relationships between data, but also the behavior of the data.   Once data behaviors are added into a database management system, these "intelligent" databases are dramatically changing the development of database systems.

The OT (Object-Oriented Technology) method not only uses the intelligent database concept but enhances it by adding  additional features.  Instead of simple triggers that are associated with a physical event, object-oriented behaviors may contain operations which effect hundreds of database objects.  Objects are "encapsulated" with their methods, and as a result no data items may be accessed or updated except through these methods.  Of course, encapsulation violates the Relational database concept of data independence, and any type of "ad-hoc" data access is prohibited in the OT model.  This is a major problem with coexistence strategies for relational databases and object-oriented databases.

OT has suffered for a long time because there were no real standards and no one stepping up to develop standards.  Each object vendor seemed to be doing their own thing.  Facilitated by Chris Stone, Some of the object vendors got together and formed the OMG (Object Management Group). 

One of the most confusing things about OT are all of the new terms, jargon, and acronyms.  Every new technology has it's share of buzzwords that you need to learn and understand but OT has a much higher share of buzzwords.  The two letters OO together seem to encourage more and more ?OO? acronyms.  To put an end to this plethora of acronyms, the OMG decided to call the paradigm OT, or Object Technology.

The following is a list of commonly used OOT acronyms:

Standards committee terms

OMG                          -Object Management Group

ODMG                       -Object Database Management Group

CORBA                      -Common Object Request Broker Architecture

OMT                           -Object Modeling Technique

General Object-Oriented Terms

OOA                           -Object-oriented Analysis

OOD                           -Object-oriented Design

OOPL                         -Object-oriented Programming Language

OOPS                          -Object-oriented Programming Systems

OODBMS                  -Object-oriented Database management system

OO                              -Object-oriented

OT                               -Object-oriented Technology

Object-Oriented Programming Languages

Beginning with modeling languages such as SIMULA, many object-oriented programming languages (OOPL) have evolved, being incorporated into Object-oriented database systems.  In their 1993 specifications endorsed C++ and Smalltalk.  For programming to be considered object oriented it must use encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.

C++ has emerged as the most dominant  object-oriented language.  C++ is really an extension of C language which is not object-oriented in nature.  Object technology purists will be quick to point out that C++ is not a pure object-oriented language, and as anyone who uses C++ will tell you it is very difficult to learn and master.  C++ actually got its name from the C programming language, where the double plus sign (++) is used to add  a variable, and since C++ is the next extension of C, the ++ was added to the name.

Incrementing a counter

Cobol:    ADD 1 TO COUNTER.

Basic:   counter = counter + 1;

C:        counter++;

Smalltalk, on the other hand, is a pure object-oriented language which makes the programmer follow the OT methodology. Smalltalk is easier to learn than C++ and because of its nature most colleges and universities have endorsed it as the standard teaching language.  Most students learn Smalltalk as their first object language and then move on to learn other OOPLs.   




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