Classes and Objects Introduced

Now that we have introduced operators, expressions, statements, and methods, we can finally talk about classes. A class is a named collection of fields that hold data values and methods that operate on those values. Classes are just one of five reference types supported by Java, but they are the most important type. Classes are thoroughly documented in a chapter of their own, Chapter 3. We introduce them here, however, because they are the next higher level of syntax after methods, and because the rest of this chapter requires a basic familiarity with the concept of class and the basic syntax for defining a class, instantiating it, and using the resulting object.

The most important thing about classes is that they define new data types. For example, you might define a class named Point to represent a data point in the two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. This class would define fields (each of type double) to hold the X and Y coordinates of a point and methods to manipulate and operate on the point. The Point class is a new data type.

When discussing data types, it is important to distinguish between the data type itself and the values the data type represents. char is a data type: it represents Unicode characters. But a char value represents a single specific character. A class is a data type; a class value is called an object. We use the name class because each class defines a type (or kind, or species, or class) of objects. The Point ...

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