Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Functional Programming with Haskell

So, I've been dancing around learning a functional language for a while. And although most of the people I know would like me to learn F#, I've decided to start with Haskell (sorry, Mathias).

So, I started reading Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! by Miran Lipovańća (Amazon link).

Why Functional Programming?
I've heard from several folks that it's a really good idea to try to learn one new programming language a year. The goal isn't to make the language our "main" language but just to become competent with it and understand how it works.

A further recommendation is to learn a language that uses a different paradigm. For example, if we are C# developers (an imperative OO language), then learning Java (another imperative OO language) won't do us that much good. But if we pick up a functional language, it will force us to start thinking about problems differently.

And the programming techniques that we learn can help us in our "main" language. C# started as an OO language, but it's evolved into an all-purpose language and has many functional elements (delegates, lambdas, LINQ, etc.). When learning these functional elements, we don't usually approach them from a purely functional standpoint.

My hope is that by learning a purely functional language, I'll have a better grasp on the idioms and techniques of functional programming, and that will make me more effective as a C# developer.

Why Haskell?
Why did I choose Haskell over F#? Well, there are 2 reasons.

First, I already had the Haskell book. It's been in my heap for a long time (according to Amazon, I've had this book since April 2011).

Second, I wanted to break away from the .NET framework. I am concerned that if I started with F#, I would get wrapped up in things like "What IL does this generate?" and "How does this F# library integrate with a C# application?" As a first step, I want to focus on the functional paradigms.

I fully expect that I will take these learnings into the F# world. And after reading just a couple of chapters, I've picked up a few good things. I got a good head start at the Silicon Valley Code Camp by attending Mathias Brandewinder's "F# for the C# Developer" (Code Camp link). And the concepts of tuples and implicit typing now make a lot of sense.

More to Come
Stay tuned for more functional stuff. I'm already starting to see the coolness around immutability and "no side effects." And the idea that a function *must* return something seems strange to a C# developer at first, but it makes total sense when functions are the primary objects that we're dealing with. I'm looking forward to diving deeper into the concepts of composing functions. And near the end of the book, there are chapters on monoids and monads. That should be interesting since I have no idea what those are.

I'm looking forward to stretching the way that I think about programming.

Happy Coding!

1 comment:

  1. After three years of functional dabbling, what are your thoughts about industrial strength software?