Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Benefits of Spicy Languages

"Functional Programming For The Rest of Us" seems to pretty much cover most topics that I've come across with functional programming, except for monads. There's also an interesting presentation by Shriram Krishnamurthi about Web programming and the suitability of some ideas from functional programming (continuations mainly) and the applicability of the MVC pattern. He also states that languages should incorporate things that people have to do over and over again like garbage collection.

"Since every symbol in FP is final, no function can ever cause side effects. You can never modify things in place, nor can one function modify a value outside of its scope for another function to use (like a class member or a global variable). That means that the only effect of evaluating a function is its return value and the only thing that affects the return value of a function is its arguments.

This is a unit tester's wet dream. You can test every function in your program only worrying about its arguments. You don't have to worry about calling functions in the right order, or setting up external state properly."

"A functional program is ready for concurrency without any further modifications. You never have to worry about deadlocks and race conditions because you don't need to use locks! No piece of data in a functional program is modified twice by the same thread, let alone by two different threads."

"An interesting property of functional languages is that they can be reasoned about mathematically. Since a functional language is simply an implementation of a formal system, all mathematical operations that could be done on paper still apply to the programs written in that language."

"Most people I've met have read the Design Patterns book by the Gang of Four. Any self respecting programmer will tell you that the book is language agnostic and the patterns apply to software engineering in general, regardless of which language you use. This is a noble claim. Unfortunately it is far removed from the truth.

Functional languages are extremely expressive. In a functional language one does not need design patterns because the language is likely so high level, you end up programming in concepts that eliminate design patterns all together. Once such pattern is an Adapter pattern (how is it different from Facade again? Sounds like somebody needed to fill more pages to satisfy their contract). It is eliminated once a language supports a technique called currying."
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