MultiJava: Modular Open Classes and Symmetric Multiple Dispatch for Java

Proceedings of the Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA 2000), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 15-19, 2000.
Curtis Clifton, Gary T. Leavens, Craig Chambers, and Todd Millstein
We present MultiJava, a backward-compatible extension to Java supporting open classes and symmetric multiple dispatch. Open classes allow one to add to the set of methods that an existing class supports without creating distinct subclasses or editing existing code. Unlike the "Visitor" design pattern, open classes do not require advance planning, and open classes preserve the ability to add new subclasses modularly and safely. Multiple dispatch offers several well-known advantages over the single dispatching of conventional object-oriented languages, including a simple solution to some kinds of "binary method" problems. MultiJava's multiple dispatch retains Java's existing class-based encapsulation properties. We adapt previous theoretical work to allow compilation units to be statically typechecked modularly and safely, ruling out any link-time or run-time type errors. We also present a novel compilation scheme that operates modularly and incurs performance overhead only where open classes or multiple dispatching are actually used.

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