D’oh solved…..

So the mystery didn’t last that long and Peter solved the puzzle quickly (see comments last post). Let me talk through it in my own words….what I expected and what I got and why I got it (as I say, I am a Java newbie and it took some reading around to figure it out).

The programme seems to be easy enough. First, a new set of shorts is initialised and then the programme starts to iterate from i = 0 to i = 9 (as i < 10). During the iteration i gets added to the set. So first time round, i = 0 is added. With the next instruction, then, 0-1 equals -1 and as set is empty and doesn't contain -1, nothing happens. Now the programme goes round the loop again, adding 1 and removing 1-1 = 0, which leaves 1 in the set. Third time round, 2 is added and 1 is removed, leaving 2. So we only ever leave the most recent element in the set and at the end of the loop, the set should only contain 9. As the size of the set gets printed, and there is only one element, I expected 1 to be printed.

Imagine my surprise then, when, instead of 1, I got 10. I was a bit flummoxed by this, but the answer is quite simple in the end: when elements get added to the set, they are added as type short, but when stuff gets removed, it is of type integer.

In essence, the expression i-1 produces a result that is of type int……and Java autoboxes this into an Integer object (remember that sets cannot hold primitive values but only object references?). And furthermore, Short and Integer objects, even if they do contain the same value, do not compare as equal. And so if you have a set where shorts are being added and integers removed, well then nothing happens.

And why doesn't the compiler complain when I remove an integer from a set of shorts? A look at the javadoc for the Set interface solves that one: the add() method enforces that only shorts can be added to a set of shorts. However, the remove() method allows you to remove anything from a set.

So one way of avoiding this, as Peter has pointed out, is to use int rather than short, or, I guess, you could also cast back to short in the programme.

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