A Twisted Look at Object Oriented Programming in C#

Interfaces

Although I danced around this subject in the tutorial, I never explicitly tried to explain an interface. C# has a key work interface which allows you to describe a contract without any implementation. An interface can contain zero or more abstract methods. You cannot create an instance of an interface.

As I suggested in the tutorial, an interface is similar to a pure virtual class in C++. It describes a set of method signatures, but does not provide any implementation details.

A Twisted Analogy

If a class is a blueprint from which you can create zero or more objects in memory, then you may ask what is an interface? Well, I have struggled here for a good analogy. You can think of an interface as one of many possible abstract contracts between the builder of a custom building and the client. If you are building tract homes, then you can simply use the stock blueprint, modifying the usual properties such as color. If you are going to build a custom rendition of a home using a blueprint, then the builder and client will need come to verbal contracts about the building. These preliminary verbal contracts do not describe the actual physical details of how the building will be constructed or embellished, but simply codifies an understanding between the principals, the designer/builder and the client. The verbal contract describes what the client wants, but not the gory details on how the goal will be implemented. One verbal agreement might be that building will be be wired for cable TV. Another agreement might be that there will be a home theater addition to the house. The designer/builder and client must then agree on an implementation of the abstract contracts before proceeding with construction. Your construction project inherits from the blueprint and the designer/builder implements zero or more custom design decisions. Thus, in the land of C#, a construction project (concrete class) can inherit from a single blueprint and implement zero or more contracts. More importantly, every building in the land of C# is constructed with absolute precision! Cool!

Sample Code: Pure Abstract Class vs. Interface

The general syntax for a pure abstract class and interface is:

abstract class MyAbstractClass
{
    public abstract someType MyMethod(...);
    ...
}
interface MyInterface
{
    someType MyMethod(...);
    ...
}

Not surprisingly, the syntax for inheriting from a class or implementing an interface is the same:

class MyClass : MyAbstractClass, MyInterface ...
{
    ...
}

Here again is our pure abstract Drawable class from Chapter 4:

abstract class Drawable
{
    public abstract String DrawYourself();
}
class Circle : Drawable
{
    public override String DrawYourself()
    {
        return "Circle";
    }
}
class Square : Drawable
{
    public override String DrawYourself()
    {
        return "Square";
    }
}

Since the base class Drawable does not contain any implementation details, it can be rewritten as an interface. Here is a slightly different version of the Drawable type implemented as an interface from Chapter 7:

// an interface version of Drawable
interface Drawable
{
    void DrawYourself();
}
class Circle : Drawable
{
    public void DrawYourself()
    {
        System.Console.WriteLine("Circle");
    }
}
class Square : Drawable
{
    public void DrawYourself()
    {
        System.Console.WriteLine("Square");
    }
}


If you try to create an instance of the Drawable interface, the compiler will complain:

Cannot create an instance of the abstract class or interface 'TestInterface.Drawable'

In general, if you are designing a contract without any implementation details, then you should use an interface. Use an abstract class if you want to include some implementation details. Remember, your class can only inherit from one class hierarchy, but can implement multiple interfaces. If you accept that interfaces in C# are analogous to pure virtual classes in C++ then, in essence, C# supports single inheritance of implementation and multiple inheritance of interface.

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