Subclasses

In object-oriented programming, a class B can extend or subclass another class A. We say that A is the superclass and B is the subclass. Instances of B inherit all the instance methods of A. The class B can define its own instance methods, some of which may override methods of the same name defined by class A. If a method of B overrides a method of A, the overriding method in B may sometimes want to invoke the overridden method in A: this is called method chaining. Similarly, the subclass constructor B() may sometimes need to invoke the superclass constructor A(). This is called constructor chaining. Subclasses can themselves have subclasses, and when working with hierarchies of classes, it can sometimes be useful to define abstract classes. An abstract class is one that defines one or more methods without an implementation. The implementation of these abstract methods is left to the concrete subclasses of the abstract class.

The key to creating subclasses in JavaScript is proper initialization of the prototype object. If class B extends A, then B.prototype must be an heir of A.prototype. Then instances of B will inherit from B.prototype which in turn inherits from A.prototype. This section demonstrates each of the subclass-related terms defined above, and also covers an alternative to subclassing known as composition.

Using the Set class of Example 9-6 as a starting point, this section will demonstrate how to define subclasses, how to chain to constructors and overridden ...

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