Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Object Oriented Programming

Programs and Algorithms

An algorithm is a step-by-step way to solve a problem or complete a task. You can think of it like a musical score. You play a score in order from left to right, playing each note or rest one after each other, jumping backwards in case of repeats and forwards in cases of things like second endings or codas. In the same way, you can tell your computer to play a B for two seconds and then an A and tell it to repeat back and so on. You're able to tell your computer to do more complicated things, like play a C if you move your mouse to the upper right hand corner and a D in the left hand corner.

For example, imagine making a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Your algorithm might go like this:

  1. Get a bagel
  2. Cut bagel in half
  3. Toast the bagel
  4. Spread cream cheese on each half, on the side that was cut.

Programs are coded according to algorithms. A program is a series of instructions that a computer follows to complete a task. In order to communicate instructions to your computer, you need to be able to speak a language in common with it. The native language of computers is called machine code and is made up of nothing but ones and zeros. Every kind of computer speaks a different dialect of machine code. Fortunately, there exist programming languages that are easier for humans to learn. You write your instructions (or code) in the SuperCollider language and when you evaluate them (by highlighting them and pressing enter), the interpreter translates them to machine code. Your program is made up of the lines of code that you write.

  • You start by thinking of your algorithm and then create a program to implement it.

Objects and Classes: a theoretical example

Let’s use our bagel algorithm to create pseudo-code that looks like object-oriented code. Pseudo-code is a mockup of a program. It will look like a SuperCollider program would look if it dealt with food instead of sounds.

Our algorithm starts with:

  1. Get a bagel

In real life, we would get a bagel from a bag of bagels. In an object-oriented language, we would think of the bagel as an object that we could manipulate. An object is an entity containing data and methods for accessing that data. The definition of a type object is called a class.

A bagel object would probably contain information about whether it was cut or toasted and what toppings it would have. Classes define objects and are a blueprint for object creation. They also can create objects. Classes contain methods called constructors that create new instances of the class and initialize them. We would send a message to the Bagel class asking it to make us a bagel object.;

Bagel is the class. new is the message. Once we have the new object, we need to remember it, so let’s change that to give it a name:

 my_bagel =;

my_bagel is the name of the newly created bagel. The equals sign is an assignment statement. my_bagel gets the new bagel. We’ll come back to this later.

  1. Cut bagel in half

In real life, we would do this with a knife. In object oriented programming, objects provide their own methods for changing their state. We send a message to the bagel saying we want it cut.


my_bagel is the object. cut is the message.

  1. Toast the bagel

Again, in real life, we would put the bagel in a toaster. But, since this is an object, we send a message telling it we want it toasted.

  1. Spread cream cheese on each half, on the side that was cut.

The bagel will know what to do. The author of the class has already written a method that applies a topping to each half. We just have to specify which topping we want, by using an argument. Arguments are additional data we pass along while sending a message to an object.


So, adding in the cream_cheese creation, our pseudo-code bagel program would look like:


  var my_bagel, cream_cheese;
  my_bagel =;
  cream_cheese =\cream);
  • Objects are instances of the Classes that define them.
  • Objects contain data and methods to access them.
  • Classes are factories for creating new instances of objects.
  • We communicate with objects and classes by sending them messages.
  • We can specify additional information by providing arguments with our messages.

Additional reading on programs, algorithms and pseudo-code


Jen Savage said...

I'm not a n00b when it comes to coding, but I still think this is a darned good explanation.

I would expand on how methods work though.

panos amelides said...

Hi there , I am new in SC3 and I need some help.
I have no background in programming...

thanx in advance,