When a class is defined using
define-class and the class name was
previously defined, by default the new binding just replaces the old
binding. This is the normal behavior for
define. However if
both the old and new bindings are redefinable classes (instances of
<redefinable-class>), then the class will be updated in place,
and its instances lazily migrated over.
The way that the class is updated and the way that the instances migrate over are of course part of the meta-object protocol. However the default behavior usually suffices, and it goes as follows.
<my-class>are converted to be instances of the new class. This is achieved by preserving the values of slots that exist in both the old and new definitions, and initializing the values of new slots in the usual way (see make).
<my-class>are redefined, as though the
define-classexpressions that defined them were re-evaluated following the redefinition of
<my-class>, and the class redefinition process described here is applied recursively to the redefined subclasses.
<my-class>is no longer needed and so can be allowed to be garbage collected.
To keep things tidy, GOOPS also needs to do a little housekeeping on methods that are associated with the redefined class.
<my-class>metaobject as one of its formal parameter specializers must be updated to refer to the new
<my-class>metaobject. (Whenever a new generic function method is defined,
define-methodadds the method to a list stored in the class metaobject for each class used as a formal parameter specializer, so it is easy to identify all the methods that must be updated when a class is redefined.)
If this class redefinition strategy strikes you as rather counter-intuitive, bear in mind that it is derived from similar behaviour in other object systems such as CLOS, and that experience in those systems has shown it to be very useful in practice.
Also bear in mind that, like most of GOOPS’ default behaviour, it can be customized…