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> In C# you don't have to pass around the type in a method parameter and use reflection.

I know - but I'm not familiar with the situation where I'd have to to that in java. Do you mean e.g.

    Foo(object x)
    {
      if (X is List<int>)
         ...
      else 
         ...
    }



The canonical example in the standard library would be this one from the entire collections framework:

    public Object[] toArray()
    public <T> T[] toArray(T[])
You cannot turn an ArrayList<T> into a T[], for example, without passing a T[] into the function so that you can grab the type from the passed parameter at runtime. C#, which retains the generic information at runtime doesn't need this so you can just do

    public T[] toArray()
The other place I've seen this come up is with Exceptions- you cannot catch a generic Exception. It's pretty annoying now that Java 8 has streams because you cannot have a checked exception abort out of processing a Stream unless you either 1) catch Exception (rather than the specific subclass) and deal with everything or 2) catch the checked exception in the lambda, wrap it in a runtime exception, rethrow it, and then catch the wrapped exception.


Basically every time you need to instantiate a type passed as a type parameter. You either need to pass the appropriate class literal or a factory function. And if you need ro create an instance of a generic type parameterized by a type parameter (eg. Collection<T>) you need a factory or else resort to raw types and/or ugly casting.


Do you mean things like this (C#)?

    void AddAnItem<T>(List<T> aList) where T : new()
    {
       aList.Add(new T());
    }
Or for instantiating generic types:

    public TColl CreateACollectionAndAddAnItem<TColl, T>(T item) 
       where TColl : ICollection<T>, new()       
    {
       TColl aList = new TColl(); 
       aList.Add(item);
       return aList;
    }

    // Usage 
    List<string> myList = CreateACollectionAndAddAnItem<List<string>, string>("hello");


Both those examples are exactly the type of thing you cannot do in Java because of type erasure. For instance, your first example would need to be:

    <T> static void addItem(List<T> list, Class<T> type) {
        T item = type.newInstance();
        list.add(item);
    }


Can't that be solved by passing these types around under the hood, but allowing the language to sugar them out when they are known? I thought this kind of half-erasure was how some languages already operated on runtimes that erase generics.


That's basically what Java does. Java class definitions contain the full, reified type information, but when the runtime loads the class, those types are lost. Only the compiler uses them.

There are some ways to introspect generic types in Java, but you need a concrete binding. For instance, if a method returns List<Integer>, you can in fact see that it returns List<Integer> and not just List. Method.getGenericReturnType() would return a ParameterizedType with a List raw type and Integer type arguments. But that requirement for it to be a concrete binding means it's not really helpful from the context of writing a generic class or method in the first place.

Using the above example, I'm not sure how you could desugar that without having the type known to the runtime. The generic method is going to be the same code no matter the type provided, but the type provided is necessary in order to know the type to construct. So either the runtime must provide the type, or it must be given as a parameter.

Additionally, glossing over the issue like that creates a huge trade-off. Now programmers must build a mental model of when the compiler can and can't do the type binding. The difficulty of building such a mental model accurately is one of the central complaints against Rust's borrow and lifetime checker(s).




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