Assignment 6

Assignment 6
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Vector: A Dynamic Array Class


The standard Java class library contains a useful class
called Vector. It is actually a kind of dynamic array.
This assignment involves writing a C++ class, called DynArray,
that emulates the Java Vector class. In addition, it
involves writing other, related, classes, and is a useful
exercise in the use of class inheritance and virtual


To implement such a dynamic class, it is necessary to use
arrays of pointers, and to use new and delete to allocate and de-allocate memory for these arrays of pointers. Perhaps a
picture would help:

Here, the first five elements of the array (on the left)
point to elements, while the remainder are empty (i.e., are
NULL pointers). The topmost element is at index 0, the next
at index 1, etc.

When an element is ‘added’ to the array, a pointer to that
element is entered into the next available pointer slot. If
there is no space left in the pointer array, then the array
is automatically expanded by capacityIncrement
elements to make space. This expansion is accomplished by:

  1. Determining how large the pointer array needs to
    become, and performing a new to allocate that amount
    of space for the array (not what the
    array elements point to),
  2. Copying the entries of the existing pointer array
    into the new pointer array, and zeroing out the
    remaining entries in the new pointer array,
  3. Deleting the old pointer array.
  4. Updating all the necessary internal data in the class
    to reflect the newly expanded array.

When an element is ‘removed’ from the array, the
corresponding array pointer entry is zeroed, and then all the
array pointer entries above it are moved down one, to fill in
the gap (which means that their index values also change).
All internal data in the class is updated to reflect the new
state of the array.


Our DynArray is an array of … what? On the one
hand, we’d like to implement a dynamic array that would be
generally useful — an array of Widgets, an array of Persons,
an array of Vehicles, — whatever. On the other hand,
how do we do this without writing a new kind of array for
each type of element we might want to store into it?

We can solve this problem by using inheritance; we will
implement a DynArray class that can store instances of
any class derived from an abstract base class called DynArrayElement.

So far, so good. But think about the problem some more.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea for an instance of each class
derived from DynArrayElement to be informed when it is
being added to a DynArray? and when it is being
removed from a DynArray? For one thing, it would be
nice if an element could determine whether it currently is in
a DynArray, before it silently disappears as a result
of being destroyed. For example:

DynArray myArray(100, 10);    // initialCapacity 100,
	                      // capacityIncrement 10
MyElement *myElement = new MyElement;


delete myElement;	// What happens to the array pointer?

Clearly, we would like to catch this error as early as
possible. We can add code to the element’s destructor to make
us aware of this situation, if the element is in a DynArray.

How can the element tell that it’s stored in a DynArray?
Actually, the element may be in several DynArrays
simultaneously, or even in the same DynArray more than
once! So, it makes sense to keep a count of how many arrays
each element is currently in; if the count is not zero at the
time its destructor is called, ERROR!

How might we accomplish this? Well, let’s require that
every class derived from DynArrayElement must
implement a standard set of virtual functions. We can do that
by writing our DynArrayElement class to include them
as pure virtual functions:

class DynArrayElement
    virtual ~DynArrayElement();	// Why virtual?

    // Virtual functions to be implemented
    // by all derived classes
    virtual void OnInsertion(DynArray &array) = 0;
    virtual void OnRemoval(DynArray &array) = 0;

Function onInsertion()
is called by the DynArray code when it inserts an
element into itself, and function onRemoval()
is called by the DynArray code when it removes it from
itself. In each case, the function provides a reference to
the DynArray instance to which the element is being
added, in case the element needs to make use of that
information. What each function does is totally dependent on
the derived class. Indeed, different derived classes may do
totally different things. These functions may keep a count of
the number of arrays the instance is in, or they may perform
more complex housekeeping. What they do, or should do, is the
business of that class, and not of the DynArray class.
So we delegate those functions to the element
class, where it belongs.

Note: Since we always
use the DynArrayElement class with the DynArray
class, we will place its declarations in the dynarray.h file. The
implementation of the DynArray class will be in the dynarray.cpp file.

Use of Exceptions

If your C++ compiler doesn’t support exceptions, then you
obviously can’t use them. In that case, just show me the
code that you would have used to implement the throwing
and catching of exceptions, but commented out so your
compiler can’t complain about them. By the way, if you
have such an antiquated C++ compiler, it’s time to get a
more up-to-date one!

Several of the member functions of the DynArray class
have to deal with exceptional conditions. For example, an
attempt to access an element via an index, when there is no
element at that index, should be invalid. In this case, the
function will throw an exception — specifically an ArrayOutOfBoundsException.

To make our exceptions simpler to deal with, we organize
them into a class hierarchy:

class Exception
    virtual ~Exception() {}

class OutOfMemoryError : public Exception

class ArrayOutOfBoundsException : public Exception

We do this so that we can catch a specific one of these
exceptions by doing something like:

    // code that may throw an exception
catch (ArrayOutOfBoundsException &e)
    // Do something...

Alternatively, we can catch any of these exceptions by
doing something like:

    // code that may throw an exception
catch (Exception &e)
    // Do something...

Since we are using these exceptions only for the DynArray
class, we will place their declarations in the dynarray.h file.

Requirements for the DynArray class

Here are the requirements for this DynArray class:

  1. A constructor that accepts two arguments: int
    initialCapacity, the initial storage capacity of the
    array, and int capacityIncrement, how much to
    increase the element’s capacity on each expansion.
    The default value for each of these arguments will be

DynArray(int initialCapacity = 10, int capacityIncrement = 10);

  1. The copy constructor and the assignment
    operator will be disabled (at least for the moment):

DynArray(const DynArray &array); 
DynArray &operator=(const DynArray &array);

  1. A destructor that performs the necessary
    cleanup for the array:


What does ‘necessary cleanup’ mean here? [Hint:
It means more than a simple

  1. An access method to return the number of
    elements currently stored in the array:

int ElementCount() const ;

  1. An access method to return the current
    capacity of the array:

int Capacity() const;

  1. An access method to return the array’s
    capacity increment:

int CapacityIncrement() const;

  1. A method to ensure that the array has at
    least the specified capacity. If it doesn’t, then the
    array is expanded appropriately:

void EnsureCapacity(int minCapacity);

If the function fails to expand the array, it throws OutOfMemoryError.

  1. A method to trim the array’s capacity down
    to size (i.e. reduce its capacity to the actual
    number of elements currently stored):

void TrimToSize();

If the function fails to contract the array, it throws OutOfMemoryError.

  1. A method to determine whether the array is
    empty or not:

bool IsEmpty() const; 

Returns a Boolean value;
true if the array has no elements, false otherwise.

  1. A method to determine whether the
    specified element is in the array:

bool Contains(const DynArrayElement &element) const;

Returns a Boolean value; true if element is in the
array, false otherwise. Note that it is possible for an
element to be in the array more than once.

Hint: This may be implemented by delegating most of its work to
another member function in this class.

  1. A method to add an element to the end of
    the array:

void AddElement(const DynArrayElement &element);

Note that, if there is insufficient capacity for this
element to be added, the array of pointers will be
automatically extended. If the function fails to expand
the array, it throws OutOfMemoryError. An element
may be placed in the same array more than once.

  1. A method to remove an element from an

bool RemoveElement(const DynArrayElement &element); 

Returns a Boolean value; true if the
element was found and removed, false otherwise. If an
element occurs more than once in the array, only the
first occurrence is removed.

  1. A method to remove an element from an
    array, using its index:

void RemoveElementAt(int index);

If there is no element with that index, the function
throws ArrayOutOfBoundsException

  1. A method to remove all elements from an
    array, from last to first:

void RemoveAllElements();

(Think about how one might do this efficiently.)

  1. A method to set an element into the array
    at a particular index, replacing the element that was
    previously there:

void SetElementAt(const DynArrayElement &element, int index);

The index must be within the range: (0 to
, else the function throws an ArrayOutOfBoundsException.
The previous element at that index is discarded (removed
from the array).

  1. A method to insert an element into the
    array at a particular index:

void InsertElementAt(const DynArrayElement &element, int index);

The index must be within the range: (0 to
, else the function throws an ArrayOutOfBoundsException.
Elements with an index greater than or equal to the
current index are shifted up to make room.

  1. A method to return the index of an element
    in the array:

int IndexOf(const DynArrayElement &element, int indexStart = 0) const;

Searches the array for the specified element, starting
from indexStart. Returns the index of the element, if it
is in the array; -1 if it is not in the array. If the
element is in the array more than once, the index of the
first occurrence encountered is returned.

  1. An overloaded operator[]

    DynArrayElement &operator[](int index);

    Allows the user to access DynArrayElements stored in a DynArray using
    subscript syntax (for example da[5]). 

  1. An overloaded operator[]

    const DynArrayElement &operator[](int index) const;

    Allows the user to access DynArrayElements stored in a const DynArray using
    subscript syntax.

Note that the overloaded operator[]
operators do not do the equivalent of SetElementAt, or
InsertElementAt, or RemoveElementAt.  Do you understand why?

Requirements for testing

You will need to test your DynArray class, and so
you’ll need to create a non-abstract class that can be used
in such an array. In other words, it must be derived from DynArrayElement,
and must implement the OnInsertion()
and OnRemoval() virtual
member functions. Let’s use something really simple: a Double

#ifndef _DOUBLE_H
#define _DOUBLE_H
// double.h
#include "dynarray.h"

class Double : public DynArrayElement
    Double(double d);
    Double(const Double &d);
    Double &operator=(const Double &d);
    virtual ~Double();
    double DoubleValue() const;	// return m_value

    virtual void OnInsertion(DynArray &array);
    virtual void OnRemoval(DynArray &array);
    double m_value;     // The encapsulated value
    int m_inArrayCount; // Count of array memberships
                        // (initialized to 0)

#endif // _DOUBLE_H

Here’s what you’ll need to implement the Double class

  • The constructors. These should be self-explanatory
    (but don’t forget to use initializer lists!)
  • The assignment operator. Again, this should be simple
    (but don’t forget the assignment to self problem!)
  • The DoubleValue()
    access method. Trivial!
  • The OnInsertion()
    function. It should simply increment m_inArrayCount.
  • The OnRemoval()
    function. It should simply decrement m_inArrayCount.
  • The destructor. This is very slightly trickier — you
    will need to test whether m_inArrayCount
    is zero or not. Use the assert
    macro to assert that its value should be zero. (See assert.h)

Note that it is a good idea to ‘instrument’ your code with
stuff like:

cout << "Double element inserted into DynArray" << endl;

so you can trace what’s happening during execution.

yourself a test program to test that everything works.

Be Thorough!


Change your DynArray class so that it is derived
from DynArrayElement. Why might this be a good idea?

Does your class now compile? What do you have to do to
make it compile?

Here is a function you can use to test this out:

void TestIt()
    DynArray parent;
    DynArray child1, child2, child3;


    Double d1(1.0), d2(2.0), d3(3.0);


    Double d4(4.0), d5(5.0), d6(6.0);


    Double d7(7.0), d8(8.0), d9(9.0);

    cout << " ";
    for (int k = 0; k < child1.ElementCount(); k++)
        cout << "[" << k << "] ";
    cout << endl;
    for (int i = 0; i < parent.ElementCount(); i++)
        DynArray &child = (DynArray &)(parent[i]);
        cout << "[" << i << "]: ";
        for (int j = 0; j < child.ElementCount(); j++)
            Double &d = (Double &)(child[j]);
            cout << d.DoubleValue() << " ";
        cout << endl;


Before you get too concerned about the amount of work you
might have to do for this assignment, here’s some statistics
from my implementation, including the enhancements:

  • dynarray.h: approximately 95 lines of code,
    including whitespace and comments
  • dynarray.cpp: approximately 240 lines of code,
    including whitespace and comments.
  • longest function: 38 lines of code, including
    whitespace and comments.
  • most functions 10 lines or less, including whitespace
    and comments.


This page was last changed on 06 May 2006