# variables.md

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# Variables

A VARIABLE is a NAME for an object. You give an object a name using the ASSIGNMENT operator (it looks like an equal sign).

color = "blue"
fruit = "berry"

Anywhere you can use an object, you can use a variable instead.

color + fruit
fruit.upcase

# The Warehouse Metaphor

![Warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark](img/warehouse.jpg)

Think of memory as a giant warehouse.

# The Warehouse Metaphor Explained

If memory is a giant warehouse...

...and *objects* are **boxes** in that warehouse

...then a *value* is the **contents** of a box

...and a *variable* is a **label** you stick on the outside of the box

# Variables are documentation

Which is clearer, this:

60 * 60 * 24

or this:

seconds_per_minute = 60
minutes_per_hour = 60
hours_per_day = 24
seconds_per_day = seconds_per_minute * minutes_per_day * hours_per_day

?

# Lab: Play In IRB

Let's spend a few minutes just playing around in IRB. Some things to try:

* write a poem
* YELL THE POEM
* calculate 2 + 2 and more complicated things
* assign your best friend to a variable
* reverse your best friend's name
* get a new best friend and reverse her too

# The Pointer Metaphor

snack = "Apple"

![snack-apple](img/snack-apple.svg)

Think of a variable as **pointing** to an object.

# Changing Variables

You can assign and reassign variables at will.

color = "blue"
fruit = "berry"
color + fruit

color = "black"
color + fruit

Changing a variable (using ASSIGNMENT) just changes the name of an object. It does *not* change the data inside the object.

# Many pointers can point to the same thing

fruit = "Apple"
snack = fruit

![snack-fruit](img/snack-fruit.svg)

After this both `snack` and `fruit`...

* are *pointing* to the same *object*
* have the same *value*

# Return values are new

most messages return *new* values

fruit = "banana"
snack = fruit.upcase

![fruit-banana-snack-banana](img/fruit-banana-snack-banana.svg)

`"banana"` and `"BANANA"` are two *different objects* in memory

# Changing Values

Most messages do not change the data inside the object.

color.upcase
color

But some messages do change the data!

color.upcase!
color

This can be dangerous so sometimes those messages end with a BANG (exclamation point).

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