• Understand subclasses.
  • Understand how to create a Teacher that is a subclass of a Person.
  • Understand class hierarchy.
  • Subclasses (Eck 5.5.1)

    One of the powers of object-oriented programming is the ability to extend an existing class. You get to use the existing code, which you do not have to re-create, and add new features to it. In CPSC 220, we create a simple example of subclasses in order for you to appreciate the concept. In CPSC 240, you study subclasses in depth.

    Real-world Subclasses

    To understand the concept of subclasses, we return to real-world objects. The world has a lot of persons - approximately 7 billion and growing. Everyone is a person, but many persons are different. Some persons are students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and such. A teacher has all of the attributes of a regular person plus some teacher specific attributes. A teacher has a name, age, place of birth like regular persons. A teacher has a list of courses being taught, classrooms in which the courses are, and the ability to assign grades to students.

    Software Subclasses

    With subclasses, software objects mimick real-world objects ability to have general persons and specific teachers, doctors, lawyers, and such. Consider the following figure showing a Person class and a Teacher class.

    Person and Teacher

    • Teacher is a subclass of Person
    • In Java, Teacher extends Person
    • Person is a superclass of Teacher
    • Teacher inherits all instance variables and methods from Person.
    • Teacher adds teacher-specific instance variables, constructors, and methods.

    Subclass Example Code - Person and Teacher

    The example consists of the following.

    • A Person class that is similar to many we have created. The Person class implements the Java Comparable interface.

      public class Person implements Comparable {
         private String firstName;
         private String lastName; 
         private int age;
         public Person(String firstName, String lastName, int age) {
            this.firstName = firstName;
            this.lastName = lastName;
            this.age = age;
         public String getName() {
            return firstName + " " + lastName;
         public void setName(String firstName, String lastName) {
            this.firstName = firstName;
            this.lastName = lastName;
         public String toString() {
            return this.firstName + " " + this.lastName;
         public int compareTo(Object o) {
            String compare1 = this.lastName + this.firstName;
            String compare2 = ((Person)o).lastName + ((Person)o).firstName;
            return compare1.compareTo(compare2);
    • A TeacherStuff interface that consists of one method public String assignGrade(double average).

      public interface TeacherStuff {
         public String assignGrade(double average); 
    • A Teacher class that is a subclass of Person and implements the TeacherStuf interface. Pay attention to the Teacher constructor, which calls the Person constructor via super(firstName, lastName, 30). super is the constructor(s) of the Teacher superclass, which is Person. If Person has multiple constructors, the appropriate one is called based on the actual parameters. Calling super must be the first line of a constructor.

      public class Teacher extends Person implements TeacherStuff {
         private String courses;
         private String department;
         private final int A = 90;
         private final int B = 80;
         private final int C = 70;
         private final int D = 60;
         public Teacher(String firstName, String lastName, String department) {
            super(firstName, lastName, 30);
            courses = "";
            this.department = department;        
         public void addCourse(String course) {
            courses += course + " ";
         public String getCourses() {
            return courses;
         public void setDepartment(String department) {
            this.department = department;
         public String getDepartment() {
            return this.department;
         public String assignGrade(double average) {
            int aveRounded = (int)Math.round(average);
            if (aveRounded > A)
               return "A";
            else if (aveRounded > B)
               return "B";
            else if (aveRounded > C)
               return "C";
            else if (aveRounded > D)
               return "D";
               return "F";
    • A TeacherDemo class that uses Person and Teacher. TeacherDemo includes a swap method that swaps the contents of two Person objects. You should notice that you can assign variables of type Teacher to variables of type Person. For example, Teacher gusty can be assigned as Person p = gusty;. The general rule is the subclasses can be assigned to superclasses.

      public class TeacherDemo {
         public static void swap(Person p, Person q) {
             String pName = p.getName();
             String qName = q.getName();
             int spacePos = pName.indexOf(" ");
             String pFirstName = pName.substring(0, spacePos);
             String pLastName = pName.substring(spacePos, pName.length());
             spacePos = qName.indexOf(" ");
             String qFirstName = qName.substring(0, spacePos);
             String qLastName = qName.substring(spacePos, qName.length());
             p.setName(qFirstName, qLastName);
             q.setName(pFirstName, pLastName);
         public static void main(String[] args) {
             Person jerriAnne = new Person("JerriAnne", "Cooper", 24);
             Teacher gusty = new Teacher("Gusty", "Cooper", "CPSC");
             System.out.println("Printing Person jerriAnne obj: " + jerriAnne);
             System.out.println("Printing Person gusty obj: " + gusty);
             System.out.println("gusty.compareTo(jerriAnne): " + gusty.compareTo(jerriAnne));
             System.out.println("jerriAnne.compareTo(gusty): " + jerriAnne.compareTo(gusty));
             gusty.addCourse("CPSC 220");
             gusty.addCourse("CPSC 110");
             System.out.println("gusty's courses: " + gusty.getCourses());
             Person p = gusty;
             System.out.println("gusty's name via p: " + p.getName());
             System.out.println("gusty's courses via p: " + ((Teacher)p).getCourses());
             System.out.println("gusty's department: " + gusty.getDepartment());
             Person coletta = new Person("Coletta", "Cooper", 1);
             if (gusty.compareTo(coletta) < 0) {
                 System.out.println("gusty is less than coletta");
             } else if (gusty.compareTo(coletta) > 0) {
                 System.out.println("gusty is greater than coletta");
             } else {
                 System.out.println("gusty is equal to coletta");
             System.out.println("coletta compareTo herself: " + coletta.compareTo(coletta));
             swap(jerriAnne, coletta);
             System.out.println("After swapping jerriAnne and colleta: " + jerriAnne + " " + coletta); 
             swap(coletta, (Person)gusty);
             System.out.println("After swapping coletta and gusty: " + coletta + " " + gusty);
             System.out.println("Gusty, average 70.6 is grade: " + gusty.assignGrade(70.6));

    Object and Class Hierarchy (Eck 5.5.2)

    The concepts of superclass, inheritance, and subclass leads to a class hiearchy. In Java, the class Object is a superclass of all classes. Object is the base class of the class hierarchy. When we create a Person it is a subclass of Object. Our Person is public class Person extends Object, but Java does not require us to include extends Object. Java extends Object for us automatically. Our Person inherits Object attributes, one of which is toString. In toString, comparable, we are overriding the toString method from the base class Object. The following figure demonstrates the class hierarchy of Object, Person, and Teacher.

    Class Hierarchy

    The Java classes provided with Java form a complex class hierarchy, with Object as its base. You see the Java class hierarchy at Java Class Hierarchy.

    Tags: class object