nunojob:~ dscape/08$ echo The Black Sheep

Haskell $

Note: I know you will look away as soon as you see f x. Please don’t. You can see some interesting things in this post.

I was on the train with João and I was delighted to see my old friend $. I also miss composite (.) but $ is really the coolest shortcut Haskell gives a developer. So what is $?

It’s defined as:

f ($) x = f x

What does it does?

Prelude> let f x = map (succ) $ filter ( < 5 ) x
Prelude> f [4,5,7]
Prelude> let f  = zipWith ($)
Prelude> f [succ,id] [5,4]

Ulisses gave me the weird example. The first one was created by myself. In the first one we filter a list for numbers that are inferior to five and then we apply succ function to it. That is, we add one. :P Without $ we would have

Prelude> let f x = map (succ) (filter ( < 5 ) x)
Prelude> f [4,5,7]

So we got the parenthesis off and that always great to help make the code more readable. At least I simply love this symbol. Ulisses sample is quite more complex. First off all because it is in point-free/point-less notation. zipWith is a function that receives two lists and applies then function provided pair by pair. Like if I want to add [1,2,3] and [3,2,1] I can:

Prelude> zipWith (+) [1,2,3] [3,2,1]

Ain’t it cool? So in this function we simply apply function that goes in the first list (id and succ) to the numbers in the second. Looks easy like this doesn’t it? ;) If it doesn’t just to read it and digest it and you’ll figure it out easily.

Let code the same samples in Ruby. Unfortunately zipWith (should I commit it? :P) doesn’t exist in ruby I’ll have to work with another sample using plain zip (it’s the same as zipWith (\a b -> [a]++[b])).

irb(main):001:0> [1,2,3].zip([3,2,1])
=> [[1, 3], [2, 2], [3, 1]]

Well ruby handles this pretty well without $. We just need to do:

irb(main):002:0> [1,2,3].zip [3,2,1]

Because it’s object oriented this kind of issues don’t exist in Ruby. There are no expressions with large number of parenthesis as well. despite this I must agree that the Haskell version is far more readable than the ruby one:

irb(main):003:0> [4,5,7].select { 
  |i| i < 5 
}.map { |i| i.succ }
=> [5]

But I still miss $.I miss coding in Haskell. It’s just plain fun.

I hope that I have helped you see why languages like Haskell and Scheme do matter, and others like Python and Ruby can be both useful and fun to work with!


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