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11.1 The ATM Problem

When I originally set out to write a text on object-oriented design heuristics, I intended to devote a chapter on applying the heuristics to an actual design problem. As I got into the project, I realized that looking at actual applications could be a complete text on its own. However, my reviewers were almost unanimous in arguing for a complete example that moves away from meals, alarm clocks, fruit baskets, etc. Although I will argue that the heuristics are independent of domain and we should therefore select simple real-world domains for our exploration of them, it is very useful to see a full design of a computer science domain. Having come full circle in my thoughts on demonstrating the usefulness of heuristics in an actual design problem, I offer you the automatic teller machine problem as an exercise in designing an application. Although this example has been designed in several texts before this one, we will examine it from a very different and more interesting perspective. The published solutions include numerous heuristics violations, that, as I will show, detract from some beneficial facet of the resulting application. By examining both the ATM and the bank side of the software application, we can illustrate a useful design technique when systems span multiple address spaces (i.e., distributed systems) known as "design through proxies" [23].

Consider the following requirement specification for our design problem.

The ATM System Requirement Specification

An automated teller machine (ATM) is a machine through which bank customers can perform a number of the most common financial transactions. The machine consists of a card reader, a display screen, a cash dispenser slot, a deposit slot, a keypad, and a receipt printer (see Figure 11.1).

Figure 11.1. The ATM System.


When the machine is idle, a greeting message is displayed. The keys and deposit slot will remain inactive until a bank card has been entered. When a bank card is inserted, the card reader attempts to read it. If the card cannot be read, the user is informed that the card is unreadable, and then the card is ejected.

If the card is readable, the card reader reads the account and PIN (personal identification number) numbers off the card and the user is asked to enter his or her PIN. The user is given feedback (in the form of asterisks, but not the specific digits entered) as to the number of digits entered at the numeric keypad. The PIN entered by the user is compared to the PIN on the ATM card. If the PIN is entered correctly, the user is shown the main menu (described below). Otherwise, the user is given up to two additional chances to enter the PIN correctly. Failure to do so on the third try causes the machine to keep the bank card. The user can retrieve the card only by dealing directly with an authorized bank employee.

The main menu contains a list of the transactions that can be performed. These transactions are as follows:

  • Deposit funds to an account (required info.: checking/savings, amount);

  • Withdraw funds from an account (required info.: checking/savings, amount);

  • Transfer funds from one account to another (required info.: checking/savings, amount, other account number, other checking/savings);

  • Query the balance of any account (required info.: checking/savings).

The user can select a transaction and specify all relevant information. When a transaction has been completed, the system returns to the main menu.

At any time after reaching the main menu and before finishing a transaction (including before selecting a transaction), the user may press the Cancel key. The transaction being specified (if there is one) is cancelled, the user's card is returned, the receipt of all transactions is printed, and the machine once again becomes idle.

If a deposit transaction is selected, the user is asked to specify the account to which the funds are to be deposited to enter the amount of the deposit, and to insert a deposit envelope.

If a withdrawal transaction is selected, the user is asked to specify the account from which funds are to be withdrawn and the amount of the withdrawal. If the account contains sufficient funds, the funds are given to the user through the cash dispenser.

If a transfer of funds is selected, the user is asked to specify the account to which the funds are to be deposited, whether it is to checking or savings, and the amount of the transfer. If sufficient funds exist, the transfer is made.

If a balance inquiry is selected, the user is asked to specify the account whose balance is requested. The balance is not displayed on screen but is printed on the receipt.

All transactions are carried out cooperatively between the ATM and the bank. The bank holds all of the account information and must be consulted over the network at the appropriate time during the transaction. The bank is also responsible for updating the account information based on the transactions processed.

Two separate systems are being designed here. One is an application that runs on the ATM side of the system. The other application runs on the bank side of the system. We will assume we are building both.

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