In my time on Quora.com, I’ve answered a bunch of questions on object-oriented programming (OOP). In giving my answers, I’ve tried my best to hew as closely as I can to what I’ve understood of Alan Kay’s older notion of OOP from Smalltalk. The theme of most of them is, “What you think is OOP is not OOP.” I did this partly because it’s what’s most familiar to me, and partly because writing about it helped me think clearer thoughts about this older notion. I hoped that other Quora readers would be jostled out of their sense of complacency about OO architecture, and it seems I succeeded in doing that with a few of them. I’ve had the thought recently that I should share some of my answers on this topic with readers on here, since they are more specific descriptions than what I’ve shared previously. I’ve linked to these answers below (they are titled as the questions to which I responded).
What is Alan Kay’s definition of object-oriented? (This points to a bunch of answers, because a few of them are good. Alan Kay responded to this one himself, as well.)
A big thing I realized while writing this answer is that Kay’s notion of OOP doesn’t really have to do with a specific programming language, or a programming “paradigm.” As I said in my answer, it’s a method of system organization. One can use an object-oriented methodology in setting up a server farm. It’s just that Kay has used the same idea in isolating and localizing code, and setting up a system of communication within an operating system.
Another idea that had been creeping into my brain as I answered questions on OOP is that his notion of interfaces was really an abstraction. Interfaces were the true types in his message passing notion of OOP, and interfaces can and should span classes. So, types were supposed to span classes as well! The image that came to mind is that interfaces can be thought to sit between communicating objects. Messages, in a sense, pass through them, to dispatch logic in the receiving object, which then determines what actual functionality is executed as a result. Even the concept of behavior is an abstraction, a step removed from classes, because the whole idea of interfaces is that you can change the class that carries out a behavior with a completely new implementation (supporting the same interface), and the expected behavior for it will be exactly the same. In one of my answers I said that objects in OOP “emulate” behavior. That word choice was deliberate.
This seemed to finally make more sense for me than it ever had before about why Kay said that OOP is about what goes on between objects, not what goes on with the objects themselves (which are just endpoints for messages). The abstraction is interstitial, in the messaging (which is passed between objects), and the interfaces.
This is a conceptual description. The way interfaces were implemented in Smalltalk were as collections of methods in classes. They were strictly a “gentleman’s agreement,” both in terms of the messages to which they matched, and their behavior. They did not have any sort of type identifiers, except for programmers recognizing a collection of method headers (and their concomitant behaviors) as an interface.
Are utility classes good OO design?
Object-Oriented Programming: In layman’s terms, what is the difference between abstraction, encapsulation and information hiding?
What is the philosophical genesis of object-oriented programming methodology?
Why are C# and Java not considered as Object Oriented Language compared to the original concept by Alan Kay? (Quora user Andrea Ferro also gave a good answer.)
The above answer also applies to C++.
What does Alan Kay mean when he said: “OOP to me means only messaging, local retention and protection and hiding of state-process, and extreme late-binding of all things. It can be done in Smalltalk and in LISP”?
What does Darwin’s theory of evolution bring to object oriented programming methodology?
This last answer gets to what I think are some really interesting thoughts that one can have about OOP. I posted a video in my answer from a presentation by philosopher Daniel Dennet on “Free Will Determinism and Evolution.” Dennet takes an interesting approach to philosophy. He seems almost like a scientist, but not quite. In this presentation, he uses Conway’s game of “life” to illustrate a point about free will in complex, very, very, very large scale systems. He proposes a theory that determinism is necessary for free will (not contrary to it), and that as systems survive, evolve, and grow, free will becomes more and more possible, whereby multiple systems that are given the same inputs will make different decisions (once they reach a structured complexity that makes it possible for them to make what could be called “decisions”). I got the distinct impression after watching this that this idea has implications for where object-orientation can go in the direction of artificial intelligence. It’s hard for me to say what this would require of objects, though.
What resources does Alan Kay recommend for learning real object oriented programming?
Edit 11/7/2019: A commenter calling themselves “Quang” referenced this video by Alan Kay, from about 1987.
I think it is a great primer for looking at the STEPS project at Viewpoints Research, because it explains in some more detail the object model they used for it than the STEPS documentation laid out. I remember Kay told me back in about 2012 that he came up with this concept (a “pull”, or subscription model for objects) in the late ’70s. I highly recommend this video for anyone wanting to marinate in better ideas for OOP architecture.
The necessary ingredients for computer science – If you really want to understand OOP–what it was in answer to, and what it can be, you must understand this perspective!
—Mark Miller, https://tekkie.wordpress.com