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10.3: State Diagrams

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  • Because Java uses the = symbol for assignment, it is tempting to interpret the statement a = b as a statement of equality. It is not!

    Equality is commutative, and assignment is not. For example, in mathematics if a = 7 then 7 = a. In Java a = 7; is a legal assignment statement, but 7 = a; is not. The left side of an assignment statement has to be a variable name (storage location).

    Also, in mathematics, a statement of equality is true for all time. If a = b now, a is always equal to b. In Java, an assignment statement can make two variables equal, but they don’t have to stay that way.

    int a = 5;
    int b = a;     // a and b are now equal
    a = 3;         // a and b are no longer equal

    The third line changes the value of a, but it does not change the value of b, so they are no longer equal.

    Taken together, the variables in a program and their current values make up the program’s state. Figure 2.3.1 shows the state of the program after these assignment statements run.

    State diagram of the variables a and b.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): State diagram of the variables a and b.

    Diagrams like this one that show the state of the program are called state diagrams. Each variable is represented with a box showing the name of the variable on the outside and the value inside. As the program runs, the state changes, so you should think of a state diagram as a snapshot of a particular point in time.