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Class, Prototype and OOP Concept Explained

Class, Prototype and OOP Concept Explained

Favourite Jome
ยทNov 23, 2020ยท

10 min read

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Hello everyone ๐Ÿ‘‹, this article is also part of my series Javascript: The Hard Parts v2 Cover. Though you don't have to read the previous articles to follow up with this article. But I recommend reading my previous articles in the series ๐Ÿ˜‰.

Introduction

There are 4 different ways of storing data (properties) and functionalities (methods) together in one place which can be used multiple times as need. In this article, we'll go over the 4 different ways and get to a standard way at least for now to achieve the same goal.


Firstly, why do we need objects, have you ever thought of that?

Well, here's a scenario. Let's say you'll like to store some data that belongs to a particular user in your application, probably a profile application. This user has to perform some instructions (functionality) and you want both the functionality and the data of that user to be used by only to that user.

From the scenario, that's where Objects comes into play right!

Example 1:

const user1 = {
  name: "John",
  dob: 1999,
  age: function () {
    let today = new Date().getFullYear();
    return today - user1.dob;
  },
};

From the example above, we have some data (properties) which are name and dob (date of bate) and a functionality (method) age which belongs to that specific user. But what if we'll like to have another user with similar data. Another similar object will be created.

Example 2:

const user2 = {
  name: "Sally",
  dob: 2002,
  age: function () {
    let today = new Date().getFullYear();
    return today - user2.dob;
  },
};

Now, we have two users user1, user2 having their data (property) and functionality (method) specific to both of them, but this introduces repetition breaking the DRY - Don't Repeat Yourself principle.

Since both user1 and user2 have name, age property. Is there a way to avoid repetitions in this scenario?

Yes, you bait there is, then functions comes to your mind right because Functions are means of storing data in this case related data to be called several times generating a new output.

Solution 1: Function

// First way of using a function

function user(name, dob) {
  return {
    name,
    dob,
    age() {
      let today = new Date().getFullYear();
      return today - dob;
    },
  };
}

let user1 = user("John", 1999);
let user2 = user("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

If you're not used to the syntax above, I've re-declared it to another syntax.

Syntax above: Object Property Value Shorthand in JavaScript with ES6

But If you understand what I did click here to skip the other syntax.

// Second way of using a function

function user(name, dob) {
  return {
    name: name,
    dob: dob,
    age: function () {
      let today = new Date().getFullYear();
      return today - dob;
    },
  };
}

let user1 = user("John", 1999);
let user2 = user("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

Here another way of writing the user function above:

// Third way of using a function

function user(name, dob) {
  let newUser = {};

  newUser.name = name;
  newUser.dob = dob;
  newUser.age = function () {
    let today = new Date().getFullYear();
    return today - newUser.dob;
  };

  return newUser;
}

let user1 = user("John", 1999);
let user2 = user("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

Here's a rundown of the third way of using the function above:

  • A function user is declared and stored in the Global Memory.
  • user1 has an invocation to user() function and holds what's returned by the function.
    • name and dob parameter in user function holds the argument values "John" and 1999 respectively.
    • newUser has the value of an empty object
    • newUser.name = name : newUser which is an object has a property named name which holds the name parameter value ("John").
    • newUser.dob = dob same procedure as newUser.name = name
    • newUser.age holds a function/method. Whereby age is the property name.
  • return newUser : newUser object is returned to user1

Same procedure for user2.

  • user1.age(): Since user1 holds all properties and method from newObject it has access to age() method which returns 21 when the instructions in the method is executed.


So now, we've been able to store personal specific details/data using a Function to which returns an object for a particular user with properties and method.

But there is a problem with this approach, what if we'll like to add another functionality (method) to the returned object in the function. Then we'll have to go to the function to add that functionality (method) which isn't efficient.

Also, most importantly the method age() is being copied twice, to each user - user1 and user2 which is a waste of memory space since it isn't changing, let alone if the object had hundreds of methods to be called.

With that being said, this approach isn't good enough. So the big question now is, is there a better way?

Solution 2: Prototype Chain

Well yes, there is a better way, which brings about Prototype Chain.

Prototype Chain is a way to link/bond to another object where a method/properties could have been declared, which is then accessed through another object.

Hmm! You might be confused, don't worry I'll break the point down.

Meanwhile, to use the prototype chain, we have to call Object.create() technique.

function user(name, dob) {
  let newUser = Object.create(ageCalc);

  newUser.name = name;
  newUser.dob = dob;

  return newUser;
}

const ageCalc = {
  age: function () {
    let today = new Date().getFullYear();
    return today - this.dob;
  },
};

let user1 = user("John", 1999);
let user2 = user("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

Using Object.create(ageCalc) returns a new object but also has a bond/link to ageCalc object through a hidden property in all objects known as __prop__ (proto property).

Note: Firefox browser calls __proto__ prototype <prototype>

Here's what happens when the instructions above are executed

  • So when the function user() is invoked from user1 variable, a new Execution Context is created and the function user() is added to the Call Stack.

  • newUser variable holds the value of an empty object {} but has a bond with ageCalc object, having access to the method stored there.

  • newUser.name means create a key / property name called name.
    Then newUser.name = name means assign name (as value) got from the user() function parameter.

    Same procedure for newUser.dob = dob.

  • return newUser newUser is returned to user1 variable making it now initialized with newUser object.

  • Since the function user is done executing, it popped off the Call Stack.

Same process is also carried out for user2 variable.

  • user1.age(), JavaScript engine checks user1 object which was addressed as newUser in the function user, do I have a method known as age() in here, but no! so it then goes to the __proto__ (proto property) if there exist any method like that.

The process of checking the proto property is known as the Prototype Chain.

Yes, there is method age() here, which makes user1.age() work by invoking the method and returning 21.

Same process goes for user2.age()

If you'd notice in the ageCalc object property age, there is a keyword this. The this keyword makes both user1 and user2 have access to dob property.

Which is written like this in JavaScript interpreter:

today - user1.dob;

today - user2.dob;

To learn more about the this keyword read this article here. by Keshav jha

Note: newUser object returned already has access to ageCalc object so user2 doesn't have to create another method/functionality in other to use age().

This method of encapsulating properties and method is great, we achieve the goal of not replicating our methods multiple times but instead declare it in memory and have it accessed anytime.

But still, is there a much easier way of having the same goal?

Solution 3: New keyword

The new keyword does most of the hard work for us and makes writing much easier.

Here are the hard works we don't have to do ourselves anymore using the new keyword:

  • Create a new object (in this case a new user object)
  • Return the new user object created

So when the function is being called, it will be written like this:

let user1 = new user("John", 1999);
let user2 = new user("Sally", 2002);

You might wonder, since we aren't creating the object ourselves, how would we have access/link to age method.

Well it turns out, all functions have an object by default and all functions object has a property called prototype in them which is also an object.

You can try this for yourself on the console.

function functionObj() {
  return "I'm a function";
}

functionObj.stored = "I'm also an object";

functionObj(); // "I'm a function"

functionObj.stored; // "I'm also an object"

functionObj.prototype = {};

Well, the main point here is prototype property can be used to store methods and properties.

function user(name, dob) {
  this.name = name;
  this.dob = dob;
}

user.prototype.age = function () {
  let today = new Date().getFullYear();
  return today - this.dob;
};

let user1 = new user("John", 1999);
let user2 = new user("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

Here's a break down of the code above:

  • function user() is declared

  • user.prototype.age: in the function user object which has the property prototype add the property age which takes a function/method.

  • user1 = new user("John", 1999): create an Execution Context for the function user. Then the arguments are assigned to their respective properties.

    • new user("John", 1999) the new keyword has created an object
    • Notice, this keyword in the function user body. The object created by the new keyword is what this keyword is referring to.
    • All properties in user function are added to an object and returned to user1.
  • user1.age(): the returned object by user function has access/link to the age method through the prototype so those user1 since technically its has the object from user.

Hmm! we've come a long way, but there's still one more way of writing the above instructions. Is there anything wrong with the approach of using the new keyword?

No, not really. As a matter of fact, the next solution uses the new keyword but instead of having a function user and a method on the function's prototype could it all be written as one entity.

Solution 4: Class

Yes, it can. This brought about the class keyword, which is a syntactic sugar to solution 3.

Example using a Class syntax:

class Users {
  constructor(name, dob) {
    this.name = name;
    this.dob = dob;
  }

  age() {
    let today = new Date().getFullYear();
    return today - this.dob;
  }
}

let user1 = new Users("John", 1999);
let user2 = new Users("Sally", 2002);

user1.age(); // 21
user2.age(); // 18

From the instructions above,

  • class User {} wraps constructor() method and a method age()
  • constructor(name, dob) {...} is basically the same as user function at solution 3
  • age() method declared in class User {} is still going to added to the prototype like at solution 3.

Using the class syntax is the standard, but it's important to know other means in order to debug code efficiently.

So the proper way of achieving our goals since the beginning of this article is by using the class syntax - solution 4.

Conclusion

All the techniques we've covered are aimed at achieving a better way of storing data (properties) and functionalities (method) together in one place which can be used multiple times as need. Also, is the technique easy to reason about, could new functionalities (methods) be added easily and finally is the technique efficient and performant?

That's for you to ponder about...


Here is a video I highly recommend, it covers these concepts further and it's by Ifeoma Imoh

Other articles to read on further include:

I know it's been a lot, and I hope you've learnt one or two things, Thanks for Reading.

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