Instance (computer science)

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For other uses, see Instantiation.

In object-oriented programming (OOP), an instance is a specific realization of any object. Formally "instance" is synonymous with "object", as they are each a particular value (realization), and these may be called an instance object; "instance" emphasizes the distinct identity of the object. The creation of a realized instance is called instantiation.

In class-based programming, objects are created from classes by subroutines called constructors. An object is an instance of a class, and may be called a class instance or class object; instantiation is then also known as construction. Not all classes can be instantiated – abstract classes cannot be instantiated, while classes that can be instantiated are called concrete classes. In prototype-based programming, instantiation is instead done by copying a prototype.

An object may be varied in a number of ways. Each realized variation of that object is an instance. Each time a program runs, it is an instance of that program. That is, it is a member of a given class that has specified values rather than variables. In a non-programming context, you could think of "dog" as a type and your particular dog as an instance of that class.[1]

An important distinction is between data type (interface) and class (implementation).

The meaning of the term type in computer science is similar to the meaning of the word "type" in everyday language. For example, a barman can ask a client, what type of beverage does he/she want? Coffee, tea, beer? A particular cup of coffee that the client receives is in the role of an instance. Two cups of coffee would form a set of two instances of (the type) coffee.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What is instance? – Definition from WhatIs.com". Whatis.techtarget.com. Retrieved February 9, 2014.