|Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Java||Contents | Prev | Next|
Polymorphism is the third essential feature of an object-oriented programming language, after data abstraction and inheritance.
It provides another dimension of separation of interface from implementation, to decouple what from how. Polymorphism allows improved code organization and readability as well as the creation of extensible programs that can be “grown” not only during the original creation of the project but also when new features are desired.
Encapsulation creates new data types by combining characteristics and behaviors. Implementation hiding separates the interface from the implementation by making the details private. This sort of mechanical organization makes ready sense to someone with a procedural programming background. But polymorphism deals with decoupling in terms of types. In the last chapter, you saw how inheritance allows the treatment of an object as its own type or its base type. This ability is critical because it allows many types (derived from the same base type) to be treated as if they were one type, and a single piece of code to work on all those different types equally. The polymorphic method call allows one type to express its distinction from another, similar type, as long as they’re both derived from the same base type. This distinction is expressed through differences in behavior of the methods you can call through the base class.
In this chapter, you’ll learn about polymorphism (also called dynamic binding or late binding or run-time binding ) starting from the basics, with simple examples that strip away everything but the polymorphic behavior of the program.