Click here to close now.

Welcome!

.NET Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Greg O'Connor, Jason Bloomberg, Jayaram Krishnaswamy

Related Topics: .NET

.NET: Article

Dealing With The C# 2.0 Genericity

Leverage generics for flexible code, the forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features

The forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features. One of those features is genericity. Genericity is not really a new concept. It has been included in some previous languages as ADA, C++, Eiffel, and in the mathematical model of abstract data types (ADT). However, the C# 2.0 notation for genericity (see the first entry in the References section), the integration of genericity in the .NET type system, the efficient implementation of genericity in the CLR-JIT process, and the new generic features included in the reflection mechanism will strengthen .NET programmers' output.

Genericity in .NET rests on the same basic reasons for which .NET promotes strongly typed languages:

  • Readability: Explicit declarations tell readers about the intended meaning of the code
  • Reliability: Thanks to explicit type declarations, a compiler can easily detect inconsistencies and erroneous operations
  • Efficiency: By knowing the types early, a compiler will be able to generate a more efficient code
The first section of this article starts by presenting arrays, the humble and anonymous generic construction embedded in C# and many programming languages. The second section explains how a limited form of generic types can be currently implemented in C#, based on the object type. In the third section the main characteristics and benefits of genericity in C# 2.0 are illustrated, including the notion of constrained genericity. An additional section explains how we can interact between generics and non-generics. Finally, we present an interesting example about simulation of multiple inheritance with genericity.

Arrays: The Implicit Generic Construction Embedded in .NET
Perhaps because arrays are predefined in C# and embedded in the CLR, when using them programmers don't realize that they are dealing with a truly an efficient generic construction.

When you write a declaration like int[] a you are instantiating a generic container, known as an array of items of type int. Any type T can be used to define an array through the notation T[]. A set of common properties and functionalities implicitly applies to arrays no matter what type T is:

  • All array objects are created with the notation new T[k] where k must be a positive expression that defines the numbers of items in the array.
  • An int property Length applies to every array (no matter the type T) to return the number of items of the array. Items are numbered from 0 to Length-1.
  • All items of an array of type T[] have the same type T. Items of a value type T are initialized as such value type (zero for numeric types, false for bool type, and so on) and items of a reference type T are initialized to null.
    1.  For an array T[] a, a[i] acts as a variable of type T denoting the item at position i. When using in the right side, a[i] returns an item of type T, and when using in a left side, a[i]=x; x must be of type T.
Unfortunately, before C# 2.0, programmers could not define a custom parameterized type based on a type T.

Genericity Based on the "Wild card type" Object
Today C# programmers who want to define a stack type of int objects must write the code in Listing 1a. If they wish to define a stack of objects of a type Person they could write the code in Listing 1b (for simplicity, this is only a rough implementation of a stack). Note that both classes Stackofint and StackofPerson have similar codes. They differ only in the type they are based on (int or Person). We can avoid that replication by defining a sole Stack type based on the root type object (see Listing 2).

Here object acts like a wild card type. Since every type in .NET inherits from the base object type, and thanks to the boxing and unboxing features of .NET, programmers can seamless push either a reference object or a value object into a stack. Note that the parameter of Push is of type object, then some calls like s.Push(3) or s.Push(new Person(...)) are correct, because any type conforms to object.

The approach above has the benefit of no code replication, but it has the following flaws:

  • It is not possible to enforce the kind of data to be placed in the stack. As the following code snippet shows, we could create a stack and push an assortment of objects on it.

    Stack s = new Stack(10);
    s.Push(new Date(10,10,2000);
    s.Push(new Person(...));
    s.Push(100);

  • Boxing and unboxing operations that apply when pushing and retrieving objects of value types can be particularly onerous.
  • Because the compiler only knows that objects in the stack have the general type object, when we retrieve the objects from the stack we must cast them to the real type they have:

    int k = (int) s.Pop();
    Person p = (Person) s.Pop();

However casting has a run-time cost, and even worse, it is an error-prone approach because it is possible to write a wrong cast.

It would be significant if we could have the safety and efficiency of specific type definitions (as shown in Listing 1), and, at the same time, we could avoid code replication. Both benefits could be achieved with the forthcoming genericity of C# 2.0.

Genericity in C# 2.0
In C# 2.0 the aforementioned definition of Stack could be best obtained by using the generic notation shown in Listing 3.

Here Stack<T> denotes a generic type and T denotes a type parameter of this generic type. Instantiating this type parameter with an actual type will result in a type of specific stack:

Stack<Person> persons = new Stack<Person>(10);.

Now persons has the type Stack<Per-son>. This has the following benefits:

  • All operations defined in Stack<T> are applied to Stack<Person> without programming duplication
  • Compiler can accept the following code without doing casting:

    Person harry = new Person(...);
    persons.Push(harry);
    Person p = persons.Pop();

  • In an attempt to push on persons, an object of a type not conforming to Person will result in a compilation error:

    persons.Push(23); //Error because 23 is not of type Person

    It is possible to push on the stack persons an object of a subtype of Person. If the class Employee inherits from Person, then the following code is correct:

    persons.Push(new Employee(...));

A type parameter can be used as an instantiation parameter of another generic type. Note that in the Stack<T> definition, the parameter T is used to instantiate the internal array T[] items. It means that when we write Stack<Person>, its instance variable items will be of type Person[].

Furthermore, generic instantiation can be done recursively. For example, a three-dimensional list can be defined as follows:

List<List<List<string>>> stringCube =
new List<List<List<string>>>(5);

Multiple Type Parameters
A generic type can have any number of type parameters. For example, in the generic dictionary type

class Dictionary<TKey, TValue> {...}

TKey must be instantiated with the type that we want to use as the type of the key (the object to search in the dictionary), and TValue must be instantiated as the type of the object associated with the key. Some examples are:

Dictionary<string, string> englishSpanish = new Dictionary<string, string>();
Dictionary<string, long> phoneList = new Dictionary<string, long>();
Dictionary<string, Person> contactList = new Dictionary<string, Person>();

More Stories By Miguel Katrib

Miguel Katrib is a PhD and a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Havana. He is also the head of the WEBOO group dedicated to Web and object-oriented technologies. Miguel is also a scientific advisor in .NET for the software enterprise CARE Technologies, Denia, Spain.

More Stories By Mario del Valle

Mario del Valle is working toward his MS at the Computer Science Department at the University of Havana, and is a software developer at the WEBOO group dedicated to Web and object-oriented technologies.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
.NET News Desk 12/06/05 06:45:57 PM EST

The forthcoming .NET 2.0 Framework will introduce new important features. One of those features is genericity. Genericity is not really a new concept. It has been included in some previous languages as ADA, C++, Eiffel, and in the mathematical model of abstract data types (ADT). However, the C# 2.0 notation for genericity (see the first entry in the References section), the integration of genericity in the .NET type system, the efficient implementation of genericity in the CLR-JIT process, and the new generic features included in the reflection mechanism will strengthen .NET programmers' output.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Dave will share his insights on how Internet of Things for Enterprises are transforming and making more productive and efficient operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures in the cleantech industry and beyond. Speaker Bio: Dave Landa is chief operating officer of Cybozu Corp (kintone US). Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave has been on the forefront of the Cloud revolution driving strategic business development on the executive teams of multiple leading Software as a Services (SaaS) application providers dating back to 2004. Cybozu's kintone.com is a leading global BYOA (Build Your O...
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
What exactly is a cognitive application? In her session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ashley Hathaway, Product Manager at IBM Watson, will look at the services being offered by the IBM Watson Developer Cloud and what that means for developers and Big Data. She'll explore how IBM Watson and its partnerships will continue to grow and help define what it means to be a cognitive service, as well as take a look at the offerings on Bluemix. She will also check out how Watson and the Alchemy API team up to offer disruptive APIs to developers.
The IoT Bootcamp is coming to Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo on June 9-10 at the Javits Center in New York. Instructor. Registration is now available at http://iotbootcamp.sys-con.com/ Instructor Janakiram MSV previously taught the famously successful Multi-Cloud Bootcamp at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in November in Santa Clara. Now he is expanding the focus to Janakiram is the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. He is a Microsoft Regional Director for Hyderabad, India, and one of the f...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3–5, 2015 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cisco, the worldwide leader in IT that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cisco makes amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected. Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by becoming the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Cisco and our partners are building the platform for the Internet of Everything by connecting the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ciqada will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ciqada™ makes it easy to connect your products to the Internet. By integrating key components - hardware, servers, dashboards, and mobile apps - into an easy-to-use, configurable system, your products can quickly and securely join the internet of things. With remote monitoring, control, and alert messaging capability, you will meet your customers' needs of tomorrow - today! Ciqada. Let your products take flight. For more inform...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY., and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool f...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that On the Avenue Marketing Group, a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. On the Avenue Marketing Group (OTA) is a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers. On behalf of our clients, we attend thousands of fairs, festivals, expos, concerts, conferences, and sporting events annually, helping them reach millions of individuals ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BroadSoft, the leading global provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services to operators worldwide, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BroadSoft is the leading provider of software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their Internet Protocol networks. The Company’s core communications platform enables the delivery of a range of enterprise and consumer calling...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 Silicon Valley, which will take place November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Things. Akana enables enterprises to share data as APIs, connect and integrate applications, drive part...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and sim...