Static on the Radio


I was doing a C# revision lecture yesterday and I was talking about static class members. I mentioned the fact that every year some students write “Static means that the value of the variable cannot be changed” in the exam, which produces an anguished cry from me and zero marks. I was trying to think of a better way to explain what static really means. And I thought about the radio. If you turn on your am radio and tune it away from a station you will hear static. And that static hiss is always there. It has been there since before radios were invented and it will be there until the universe cools right down. Static class members are a bit like this. They are always there. They exist whether you make an instance of the class or not. Static in this situation doesn’t mean “can’t change” it means “always there”.

We use them in programs when we want a data member that is part of a class but not part of each instance. For example, in a bank we might have loads of accounts, but the minimum amount you can withdraw, the maximum size of the balance we can have and the minimum age for an account holder are all relevant to accounts, but not stored in each account instance. Static works well in this situation.