You must create all the objects

Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Java Contents | Prev | Next

all the objects

When you create a handle, you want to connect it with a new object. You do so, in general, with the new keyword. new says, “Make me a new one of these objects.” So in the above example, you can say:

String s = new String("asdf");

Not only does this mean “Make me a new String,” but it also gives information about how to make the String by supplying an initial character string.

Of course, String is not the only type that exists. Java comes with a plethora of ready-made types. What’s more important is that you can create your own types. In fact, that’s the fundamental activity in Java programming, and it’s what you’ll be learning about in the rest of this book.

Where storage lives

It’s useful to visualize some aspects of how things are laid out while the program is running, in particular how memory is arranged. There are six different places to store data:

  1. Registers. This is the fastest storage because it exists in a place different than that of other storage: inside the processor. However, the number of registers is severely limited, so registers are allocated by the compiler according to its needs. You don’t have direct control, nor do you see any evidence in your programs that registers even exist.
  2. The stack . This lives in the general RAM (random-access memory) area, but has direct support from the processor via its stack pointer . The stack pointer is moved down to create new memory and moved up to release that memory. This is an extremely fast and efficient way to allocate storage, second only to registers. The Java compiler must know, while it is creating the program, the exact size and lifetime of all the data that is stored on the stack, because it must generate the code to move the stack pointer up and down. This constraint places limits on the flexibility of your programs, so while some Java storage exists on the stack – in particular, object handles – Java objects are not placed on the stack.
  3. The heap . This is a general-purpose pool of memory (also in the RAM area) where all Java objects live. The nice thing about the heap is that, unlike the stack, the compiler doesn’t need to know how much storage it needs to allocate from the heap or how long that storage must stay on the heap. Thus, there’s a great deal of flexibility in using storage on the heap. Whenever you need to create an object, you simply write the code to create it using new and the storage is allocated on the heap when that code is executed. And of course there’s a price you pay for this flexibility: it takes more time to allocate heap storage.
  4. Static storage . “Static” is used here in the sense of “in a fixed location” (although it’s also in RAM). Static storage contains data that is available for the entire time a program is running. You can use the static keyword to specify that a particular element of an object is static, but Java objects themselves are never placed in static storage.
  5. Constant storage . Constant values are often placed directly in the program code, which is safe since they can never change. Sometimes constants are cordoned off by themselves so that they can be optionally placed in read-only memory (ROM).
  6. Non-RAM storage . If data lives completely outside a program it can exist while the program is not running, outside the control of the program. The two primary examples of this are streamed objects, in which objects are turned into streams of bytes, generally to be sent to another machine, and persistent objects, in which the objects are placed on disk so they will hold their state even when the program is terminated. The trick with these types of storage is turning the objects into something that can exist on the other medium, and yet can be resurrected into a regular RAM-based object when necessary. Java 1.1 provides support for lightweight persistence , and future versions of Java might provide more complete solutions for persistence.

Special case: primitive types

There is a group of types that gets special treatment; you can think of these as “primitive” types that you use quite often in your programming. The reason for the special treatment is that to create an object with new, especially a small, simple variable, isn’t very efficient because new places objects on the heap. For these types Java falls back on the approach taken by C and C++. That is, instead of creating the variable using new, an “automatic” variable is created that is not a handle . The variable holds the value, and it’s placed on the stack so it’s much more efficient.

Java determines the size of each primitive type. These sizes don’t change from one machine architecture to another as they do in most languages. This size invariance is one reason Java programs are so portable.

Primitive type




Wrapper type






Unicode 0

Unicode 2 16- 1










+215 – 1





+231 – 1





+263 – 1














All numeric types are signed, so don’t go looking for unsigned types.

The primitive data types also have “wrapper” classes for them. That means that if you want to make a non-primitive object on the heap to represent that primitive type, you use the associated wrapper. For example:

char c = 'x';

Character C = new Character(c);

or you could also use:

Character C = new Character('x');

The reasons for doing this will be shown in a later chapter.

High-precision numbers

Arrays in Java

One of the primary goals of Java is safety, so many of the problems that plague programmers in C and C++ are not repeated in Java. A Java array is guaranteed to be initialized and cannot be accessed outside of its range. The range checking comes at the price of having a small amount of memory overhead on each array as well as verifying the index at run time, but the assumption is that the safety and increased productivity is worth the expense.

[11] In Java version 1.1 only, not in 1.0.

[12] In C++ you should often use the safer containers in the Standard Template Library as an alternative to arrays.


  • There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment!

Leave a Comment
  • Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

Top White Papers and Webcasts

  • Today's competitive marketplace requires the organization to frequently release and deploy applications at the pace of user demands, with reduced cost, risk, and increased quality. This book defines the basics of application release and deployment, and provides best practices for implementation with resources for a deeper dive. Inside you will find: The business and technical drivers behind automated application release and deployment. Evaluation guides for application release and deployment solutions. …

  • With JRebel, developers get to see their code changes immediately, fine-tune their code with incremental changes, debug, explore and deploy their code with ease (both locally and remotely), and ultimately spend more time coding instead of waiting for the dreaded application redeploy to finish. Every time a developer tests a code change it takes minutes to build and deploy the application. JRebel keeps the app server running at all times, so testing is instantaneous and interactive.

Most Popular Programming Stories

More for Developers

Latest Developer Headlines

RSS Feeds