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Professional .NET 2.0 Generics by Tod Golding

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4.1. Parameterizing Types

In a very general sense, a generic class is really just a class that accepts parameters. As such, a generic class really ends up representing more of an abstract blueprint for a type that will, ultimately, be used in the construction of one or more specific types at run-time. This is one area where, I believe, the C++ term templates actually provides developers with a better conceptual model. This term conjures up a clearer metaphor for how the type parameters of a generic class serve as placeholders that get replaced by actual data types when a generic class is constructed. Of course, as you might expect, this same term also brings with it some conceptual inaccuracies that don't precisely match generics.

The idea of parameterizing your classes shouldn't seem all that foreign. In reality, the mindset behind parameterizing a class is not all that different than the rationale you would use for parameterizing a method in one of your existing classes. The goals in both scenarios are conceptually very similar. For example, suppose you had the following method in one of your classes that was used to locate all retired employees that had an age that was greater than or equal to the passed-in parameter (minAge):

[VB code] Public Function LookupRetiredEmployees(ByVal minAge As Integer) As IList Dim retVal As New ArrayList For Each emp As Employee In masterEmployeeCollection If ((emp.Age >= minAge) And (emp.Status = EmpStatus.Retired)) Then retVal.Add(emp) End ...

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