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Thinking in C++
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What's an object?

Now that you’ve seen an initial example, it’s time to step back and take a look at some terminology. The act of bringing functions inside structures is the root of what C++ adds to C, and it introduces a new way of thinking about structures: as concepts. In C, a struct is an agglomeration of data, a way to package data so you can treat it in a clump. But it’s hard to think about it as anything but a programming convenience. The functions that operate on those structures are elsewhere. However, with functions in the package, the structure becomes a new creature, capable of describing both characteristics (like a C struct does) and behaviors. The concept of an object, a free-standing, bounded entity that can remember and act, suggests itself.

In C++, an object is just a variable, and the purest definition is “a region of storage” (this is a more specific way of saying, “an object must have a unique identifier,” which in the case of C++ is a unique memory address). It’s a place where you can store data, and it’s implied that there are also operations that can be performed on this data.

Unfortunately, there’s not complete consistency across languages when it comes to these terms, although they are fairly well-accepted. You will also sometimes encounter disagreement about what an object-oriented language is, although that seems to be reasonably well sorted out by now. There are languages that are object-based, which means that they have objects like the C++ structures-with-functions that you’ve seen so far. This, however, is only part of the picture when it comes to an object-oriented language, and languages that stop at packaging functions inside data structures are object-based, not object-oriented.

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire