Prelude - a Haskell-like functional library

$Id: README 34 2007-10-23 21:38:09Z prelude $

WARNING The project is still in a very preliminary state. Feel free to contribute.

Project home is at rubyforge.org/projects/prelude/

The goal

The general idea is that functional programming provides many benefits, which are not directly available in Ruby out of the box. This library will, hopefully, provide an infrastructure for the use of most Haskell's functional idioms. It will also facilitate a more or less direct port to Ruby of algorithms and data structures already developed by functional community. I deem infinite lists, monads, and higher-level functions to be most useful functional contribution to the general purpose programming.

I do believe the old math's maxim that “new notation leads to new results.”

Features

As of right now, i.e., release 0.0.x, the feature list is pretty much a wish list, so treat it accordingly.

Rather curious collection of operations on lists

Haskell's lists are different from Ruby's arrays in many ways. First of all, there are more operations defined on lists and, second, the naming convention is different. Since Haskell's (or Lisp's) lists play a fundamental role in everything functional, their implementation seems necessary. Here are the goals for list's implementation:

  • Most, if not all, functions, i.e., head, tail, last, first, concat, etc.

  • Assignment compatibility with Ruby's native arrays. For example, these operations should be correct:

    List a = List.new([1, 2, 3])
    b = [3, 4, 5]
    List c = a+b
    a[1] = 10
    b[2] = a[3]
    a << 3 << 4

    …and so on.

  • List comprehension. It's mostly covered by Ruby's own functionality, but some semantic refinements may be needed.

  • Infinite lists. It might look like this:

    List ones = List.new([1]) { ones } # => [1,... ]
    ones.take 3                        # => [1, 1, 1]

    This functionality is being developed by the Lazilists project, see lazylist.rubyforge.org

  • What else?

Reinforced Ruby's Lambda-calculus

While implementing majority of the Lambda world is relatively trivial in Ruby, some of the recursive beauty might be lost. Consider foldl, for example. The classic recursive definition like this

def foldl(f, s, list)
   list.empty? ? s : f(foldl(f, s, list.tail), list.head)
end

croaks on about 800+ elements integer lists, but more rubyish and compact

def foldl(s, &block)
  inject(s){ |a,b| block.call(a,b) }
end

does not possess any of the classic's functional elegance. It means that for practical applications Ruby's recursions need to be fixed or somehow re-implemented in the Prelude library.

Higher-order functions

It is a very good thing, that Ruby allows functions to be good citizens including being passed to other functions and returned from them. These need to be added to complete the picture:

  • Function combinations. Consider:

    add5 = proc {|x| x+5}
    add6 = proc {|x| x+6}
    add11 = add5 * add6

    I.e., the add5 is an absolutely generic algorithm expressed in terms of other functions as long as add5 takes as an argument and add6 returns an object for which operation + is defined.

  • Currying, as in

    add5 = (proc {|x,y,z| x+y+z}).curry(5)
    add5.call(3, 2)      # => 10

    More convenient syntax is desirable.

  • What else?

Monads

This is where all the previous trouble should start paying off allowing an application to be structured like this:

result >> connect >> do_something >> delete_something >> so_on

Writing tutorials for monadic computations became a little industry in itself, see nomaware.com/monads/html/index.html to get started. More monadic resources are here: haskell.org/haskellwiki/Books_and_tutorials#Using_monads

What else?

These features will be nice to have in a second release of the library:

What's in a name

Since most of the functionality to be implemented here is defined in Haskell's prelude package, the name Prelude seemed natural.

Download

The latest Prelude library version can be downloaded from rubyforge.org/frs/?group_id=2096

Installation

You can install Prelude library with the following command.

% gem install prelude

License

Prelude library is released under the Lesser GPL license, see www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.txt

Support

Please use the following:

References

The authors of the project were inspired by the following works:

  1. An article, probably by Gavin Sinclair, at blogs.pragprog.com/cgi-bin/pragdave.cgi/Tech/Ruby/ToProc.rdoc regarding Symbol#to_proc function in Ruby Extension project, extensions.rubyforge.org

  2. An elaborate port of Perl's Sub::Curry library by Ross Bamford, rubyforge.org/projects/rubymurray

  3. An early implementation of Haskell's lists as Ruby arrays by Hipster (a.k.a. Michel van de Ven). His original sketch can be found at www.xs4all.nl/~hipster/lib/ruby/haskell

  4. An article by Christopher Williams “Late to the Party” posted at cwilliams.textdriven.com/pages/monads

  5. Several articles on monads by MenTaLguY, see moonbase.rydia.net/mental/writings/programming/monads-in-ruby/00introduction.html