[plt-scheme] OOP problem - cloning objects

From: John Clements (clements at brinckerhoff.org)
Date: Mon Sep 23 11:14:51 EDT 2002

On Saturday, September 21, 2002, at 08:08  AM, Erich Rast wrote:

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> Hi,
> I've stumbled over an oop problem that probably has an easy standard 
> solution but right now I'm confused. I have several subclasses of 
> MrEd's text% class, like e.g. text% > z-text% > z-entry%.
> Now I need to create a deep copy of instances of such classes. 
> Therefore, I have created an interface clonable-object<%> with a 
> method clone that is supposed to return a deep copy of the resp. 
> object.
> Problem: Each superclass sure knows how to clone itself, but naturally 
> it can only return an instance of its own class in its clone method.  
> It would seem natural for z-entry% to rename the clone method of 
> z-text%, calling the superclass method, cloning any  information that 
> is new to z-entry%, and return a new instance of z-entry%. But the 
> superclasses clone method will return an instance of z-text%.
> Does that mean that e.g. z-entry% has to re-implement all of the clone 
> code that is already in its superclass z-text%? Is there a simple 
> trick I've overseen to clone objects such that each derived class only 
> provides "its own part" to the cloning process? Is there some way to 
> cast an object into an object of a derived class?

Well, this is a classic extensibility problem.  Off the top of my head, 
I see two solutions (which are the same, at some level):

1) cloning through mutation:  The "clone" method takes an object to be 
cloned, and makes the "this" object just like the argument.  When 
z-entry%'s clone method calls z-text%'s clone method, "this" still 
refers to an object of class z-entry%.  The drawback of this is that 
you have to first create a "blank" element of z-entry%.  This may not 
always be possible.  Which suggests

2) cloning through a "copy constructor": one of the instantiation 
fields is an object to be cloned.  If the clone argument is provided, 
all other arguments are ignored (semi-ick) and the new object becomes a 
clone of the old one. Of course, this can't be represented as an 

john clements

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