Each intrinsic class that a program uses is represented by an instance of the intrinsic class IntrinsicClass. If you didn't major in college in computer science, don't worry if contemplating the circularity of this notion induces a slight spinning sensation; the IntrinsicClass intrinsic class has only a couple of practical applications, which are pretty straightforward.

Each time you use the intrinsic class statement to define an intrinsic class, the compiler implicitly creates an instance of IntrinsicClass to represent the intrinsic class. (Actually, you probably won't ever use the intrinsic class statement; you'll probably just #include system header files that use it.) The compiler gives this instance the same name as the class. For example, consider the following statement:

intrinsic class BigNumber 'bignumber' { }

This defines an intrinsic class called BigNumber. It also creates an object of intrinsic class IntrinsicClass, and calls the object BigNumber.

Using IntrinsicClass instances

IntrinsicClass objects exist simply to serve as identifiers for the classes of the built-in object types, such as String, List, Vector, LookupTable, and so on. There are two main situations where it's important to have this kind of identifiers:

The ofKind() method

ofKind() returns true if the argument is the IntrinsicClass object representing the intrinsic class of the first argument. For example:

local x = new BigNumber('100');
tadsSay(x.ofKind(BigNumber) ? 'yes' : 'no'); "; ";
tadsSay(x.ofKind(Dictionary) ? 'yes' : 'no'); "\n";

This will display "yes; no", because the object is an instance of the BigNumber intrinsic class, and is not an instance of the Dictionary intrinsic class.

The getSuperclassList() method

getSuperclassList() returns a list of the immediate superclasses of a given object. If the object is an instance of an intrinsic class, the list will have one element, which is the IntrinsicClass object representing the intrinsic class. For example:

x = new BigNumber('100');
y = x.getSuperclassList();

The value of y will be [BigNumber].

Most intrinsic classes derive from an "abstract" intrinsic class called Object, so, for example, BigNumber.getSuperclassList() will return [Object]. Object itself has no superclass, so Object.getSuperclassList() will return an empty list.

IntrinsicClass methods


Returns true if val is an IntrinsicClass object, nil if not.

This is a class method, so you call this method directly on IntrinsicClass itself:

if (IntrinsicClass.isIntrinsicClass(x))
  "x is an intrinsic class instance!\n";

At first glance, this method might seem redundant with ofKind() and getSuperclassList(). It's not, though: those methods don't let you determine if you're dealing with an IntrinsicClass object, because they instead yield information about the inheritance structure for the intrinsic types. IntrinsicClass is used only for the representation of these objects, and isn't involved in the inheritance structure.

For example, [1,2,3].getSuperclassList() yields [List], and List.getSuperclassList() yields [Object]. Since Object is the root object, Object.getSuperclassList() yields an empty list. In order for the type system to be internally consistent, ofKind() must report information that's consistent with getSuperclassList(), so List.ofKind(IntrinsicClass) must return nil: IntrinsicClass isn't anywhere in List's superclass tree, so List must not be of kind IntrinsicClass.

That's why isIntrinsicClass() is needed. It's occasionally useful to know when you're dealing with an intrinsic class representation object, and the normal means of class relationship testing don't work for this test.