Designing data types in isolation is fundamentally different from designing them for integration into communities of data types, especially when inheritance is a fundamental issue. Moreover, we can distinguish between the design of families—integrated types that are variations of each other—and more general communities where totally different but cohesive collections of types support specific applications (e.g., a compiler). We are concerned with the design of integrated families of data types as opposed to individual data types; that is, on the issues that arise when the focus is intermediate between the design of individual data types and more general communities of data types. We argue that design at this level is not adequately served by systems providing only class-based inheritance hierarchies and that systems which additionally provide a coupled subtype specification hierarchy are still not adequate. We propose a system that provides an unlimited number of uncoupled specification hierarchies and illustrate it with three: a subtype hierarchy, a specialization/generalization hierarchy, and a like hierarchy. We also resurrect a relatively unknown Smalltalk design methodology that we call programming-by-exemplars and argue that it is an important addition to a designer's grab bag of techniques. The methodology is used to show that the subtype hierarchy must be decoupled from the inheritance hierarchy, something that other researchers have also suggested. However, we do so in the context of exemplar-based systems to additionally show that they can already support the extensions required without modification and that they lead to a better separation between users and implementers, since classes and exemplars can be related in more flexible ways. We also suggest that class-based systems need the notion of private types if they are to surmount their current limitations. Our points are made in the guise of designing a family of List data types. Among these is a new variety of lists that havenever been previously published: prefix-sharing lists. We also argue that there is a need for familial classes to serve as an intermediary between users and the members of a family.

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Keywords Classes, communities of data types, exemplars, exemplary programming, families of data types, inheritance, object-oriented systems, programming-in-the-large
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Journal ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems (TOPLAS)
Lalonde, W. (1989). Designing families of data types using exemplars. ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems (TOPLAS), 11(2), 212–248. doi:10.1145/63264.63265