The Essence of Inheritance

Research paper by Andrew P. Black, Kim B. Bruce, James Noble

Indexed on: 08 Jan '16Published on: 08 Jan '16Published in: Computer Science - Programming Languages


Programming languages serve a dual purpose: to communicate programs to computers, and to communicate programs to humans. Indeed, it is this dual purpose that makes programming language design a constrained and challenging problem. Inheritance is an essential aspect of that second purpose: it is a tool to improve communication. Humans understand new concepts most readily by first looking at a number of concrete examples, and later abstracting over those examples. The essence of inheritance is that it mirrors this process: it provides a formal mechanism for moving from the concrete to the abstract.