This option provides a means to wrap an existing C array for access as an object collection. If this option is given, dynamic resizing is not supported. The current C array being wrapped, however, can be replaced by giving a new setting for MemberBlock after an array already exists. A new setting can be given only if some setting was initially given at create time.
Even if a setting was not given for MemberBlock at create time, the get message for MemberBlock always returns a pointer to whatever internal memory array is currently being used by the array object. If a MemberBlock setting was given, the pointer returned will be the same as the one previously given. In either case, the pointer returned may be used to manipulate member values in any way desired using native C expressions. After an array has been created, there is no way to determine whether the MemberBlock pointer was established externally or by internal allocation. If the pointer was established by internal allocation, however, the external program must make no attempt to free or otherwise reallocate this memory.
A count must always be supplied with an external member allocation, using the setCount: argument of the compound message. If an external allocation is being used, the only way to reset the count is also to reset MemberBlock; any attempt to use the setCount: message by itself will raise an error. Whenever an external member allocation is being used, the external program is entirely responsible for assuring that the MemberBlock value is a pointer to valid allocated memory containing at least the number of member slots given by setCount:.
With an external member allocation, the array itself will not attempt to either allocate this memory or free it when the array is dropped. Dropping the array only removes its reference to the external allocation.
Since an array neither allocates nor frees an external member allocation, the same region of allocated memory may be referenced by multiple arrays, including overlapping member ranges each defined by starting location and count. This flexibility enables alternate subrange views of a single, contiguous initial allocation by means of separately created external collections.