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

The seemingly elaborate mechanism for initialization, the constructor, should give you a strong hint about the critical importance placed on initialization in the language. As Stroustrup was designing C++, one of the first observations he made about productivity in C was that improper initialization of variables causes a significant portion of programming problems. These kinds of bugs are hard to find, and similar issues apply to improper cleanup. Because constructors allow you to guarantee proper initialization and cleanup (the compiler will not allow an object to be created without the proper constructor calls), you get complete control and safety.

In C++, destruction is quite important because objects created with new must be explicitly destroyed. In Java, the garbage collector automatically releases the memory for all objects, so the equivalent cleanup method in Java isn’t necessary much of the time. In cases where you don’t need destructor-like behavior, Java’s garbage collector greatly simplifies programming, and adds much-needed safety in managing memory. Some garbage collectors are even cleaning up other resources like graphics and file handles. However, the garbage collector does add a run-time cost, the expense of which is difficult to put into perspective because of the overall slowness of Java interpreters at this writing. As this changes, we’ll be able to discover if the overhead of the garbage collector will preclude the use of Java for certain types of programs. (One of the issues is the unpredictability of the garbage collector.)

Because of the guarantee that all objects will be constructed, there’s actually more to the constructor than what is shown here. In particular, when you create new classes using either composition or inheritance the guarantee of construction also holds, and some additional syntax is necessary to support this. You’ll learn about composition, inheritance and how they affect constructors in future chapters.


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