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11: Collections of Objects

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11: Collections of Objects

[ Return to Thinking in Java 2, 3rd edition ]

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Notice that the comparisons are only interested in the keys, so duplicate values are perfectly acceptable. Feedback

The following example implements a Map using a pair of ArrayLists: Feedback

//: c11:SlowMap.java
// A Map implemented with ArrayLists.
import com.bruceeckel.simpletest.*;
import java.util.*;
import com.bruceeckel.util.*;

public class SlowMap extends AbstractMap {
  private static Test monitor = new Test();
  private List
    keys = new ArrayList(),
    values = new ArrayList();
  public Object put(Object key, Object value) {
    Object result = get(key);
    if(!keys.contains(key)) {
    } else
      values.set(keys.indexOf(key), value);
    return result;
  public Object get(Object key) {
      return null;
    return values.get(keys.indexOf(key));
  public Set entrySet() {
    Set entries = new HashSet();
      ki = keys.iterator(),
      vi = values.iterator();
      entries.add(new MPair(ki.next(), vi.next()));
    return entries;
  public String toString() {
    StringBuffer s = new StringBuffer("{");
      ki = keys.iterator(),
      vi = values.iterator();
    while(ki.hasNext()) {
      s.append(ki.next() + "=" + vi.next());
      if(ki.hasNext()) s.append(", ");
    return s.toString();
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    SlowMap m = new SlowMap();
    Collections2.fill(m, Collections2.geography, 15);
    monitor.expect(new String[] {
      "{ALGERIA=Algiers, ANGOLA=Luanda, BENIN=Porto-Novo,"+
      " BOTSWANA=Gaberone, BURKINA FASO=Ouagadougou, " +
      "BURUNDI=Bujumbura, CAMEROON=Yaounde, " +
      " CHAD=N'djamena, COMOROS=Moroni, " +
      "CONGO=Brazzaville, DJIBOUTI=Dijibouti, " +
      "EGYPT=Cairo, EQUATORIAL GUINEA=Malabo}"
} ///:~

The put( ) method simply places the keys and values in corresponding ArrayLists. In main( ), a SlowMap is loaded and then printed to show that it works. Feedback

This shows that it’s not that hard to produce a new type of Map. But as the name suggests, a SlowMap isn’t very fast, so you probably wouldn’t use it if you had an alternative available. The problem is in the lookup of the key; there is no order, so a simple linear search is used, which is the slowest way to look something up. Feedback

The whole point of hashing is speed: Hashing allows the lookup to happen quickly. Since the bottleneck is in the speed of the key lookup, one of the solutions to the problem could be to keep the keys sorted and then use Collections.binarySearch( ) to perform the lookup (an exercise at the end of this chapter will walk you through this process). Feedback

Hashing goes further by saying that all you want to do is to store the key somewhere so that it can be quickly found. As you’ve seen in this chapter, the fastest structure in which to store a group of elements is an array, so that will be used for representing the key information (note carefully that I said “key information,” and not the key itself). Also seen in this chapter was the fact that an array, once allocated, cannot be resized, so we have a problem: We want to be able to store any number of values in the Map, but if the number of keys is fixed by the array size, how can this be? Feedback

The answer is that the array will not hold the keys. From the key object, a number will be derived that will index into the array. This number is the hash code, produced by the hashCode( ) method (in computer science parlance, this is the hash function) defined in Object and presumably overridden by your class. To solve the problem of the fixed-size array, more than one key may produce the same index. That is, there may be collisions. Because of this, it doesn’t matter how big the array is; each key object will land somewhere in that array. Feedback

So the process of looking up a value starts by computing the hash code and using it to index into the array. If you could guarantee that there were no collisions (which could be possible if you have a fixed number of values) then you’d have a perfect hashing function, but that’s a special case. In all other cases, collisions are handled by external chaining: The array points not directly to a value, but instead to a list of values. These values are searched in a linear fashion using the equals( ) method. Of course, this aspect of the search is much slower, but if the hash function is good, there will only be a few values in each slot. So instead of searching through the entire list, you quickly jump to a slot where you have to compare a few entries to find the value. This is much faster, which is why the HashMap is so quick. Feedback

Knowing the basics of hashing, it’s possible to implement a simple hashed Map:

//: c11:SimpleHashMap.java
// A demonstration hashed Map.
import java.util.*;
import com.bruceeckel.util.*;

public class SimpleHashMap extends AbstractMap {
  // Choose a prime number for the hash table
  // size, to achieve a uniform distribution:
  private static final int SZ = 997;
  private LinkedList[] bucket = new LinkedList[SZ];
  public Object put(Object key, Object value) {
    Object result = null;
    int index = key.hashCode() % SZ;
    if(index < 0) index = -index;
    if(bucket[index] == null)
      bucket[index] = new LinkedList();
    LinkedList pairs = bucket[index];
    MPair pair = new MPair(key, value);
    ListIterator it = pairs.listIterator();
    boolean found = false;
    while(it.hasNext()) {
      Object iPair = it.next();
      if(iPair.equals(pair)) {
        result = ((MPair)iPair).getValue();
        it.set(pair); // Replace old with new
        found = true;
    return result;
  public Object get(Object key) {
    int index = key.hashCode() % SZ;
    if(index < 0) index = -index;
    if(bucket[index] == null) return null;
    LinkedList pairs = bucket[index];
    MPair match = new MPair(key, null);
    ListIterator it = pairs.listIterator();
    while(it.hasNext()) {
      Object iPair = it.next();
        return ((MPair)iPair).getValue();
    return null;
  public Set entrySet() {
    Set entries = new HashSet();
    for(int i = 0; i < bucket.length; i++) {
      if(bucket[i] == null) continue;
      Iterator it = bucket[i].iterator();
    return entries;
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    SimpleHashMap m = new SimpleHashMap();
    Collections2.fill(m, Collections2.geography, 25);
} ///:~

[ Return to Thinking in Java 2, 3rd edition ]

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Class methods and how they are called
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Using the Math class
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Creating and calling custom class methods
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Menus and submenus
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Essential HTML to launch an applet and pass it parameters
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Menus and submenus
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The WindowListener interface and the WindowAdapter class
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An introduction to the Java Collections API
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Claiming and throwing exceptions
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Multithreading, the Thread class, and the Runnable interface
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