Introduction To Haskell

Lecture 1

An Unexpected Journey™

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Nishant Shukla

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    Reference Text

    Real World Haskell

    by Bryan O’Sullivan, Don Stewart, and John Goerzen

    Learn You a Haskell

    by Miran Lipovača

    More Than a Language

    I know why you're here. ...why you hardly sleep, why night after night, you sit by your computer.


    Alonzo Church invented λ-calculus

    Then John McCarthy invented Lisp

    The Origin

    Haskell was made by a committee of really smart people to define an open standard*

    More than 20 years old

    • MIT
    • Chalmers University
    • Mitre Corp
    • Victoria University of Wellington
    • Simon Fraser University
    • University of Cambridge
    • Yale University
    • University of Glasgow
    • Microsoft Research Ltd

    From Simon Peyton Jones' talk at OSCON

    From Simon Peyton Jones' talk at OSCON

    From Simon Peyton Jones' talk at OSCON

    From Simon Peyton Jones' talk at OSCON


    1. Purely functional
    2. Statically typed
    3. Lazy

    1. Purely functional

    • Every input has a corresponding output
    • f(x) = x² + 1

    • Powerful function compositions

      g(x) = x - 1

      g(f(x)) = x²

    • PURE

      That means no side effects

      A function will never modify a global variable

      Order doesn't matter!

      Easy concurrency

    Let's be a little formal

    f is function from a set A to a set B.

    f :: A → B

    What's the domain, codomain, and range?
    domain(f)   = 
    codomain(f) = 
    range(f)    ⊆ 
    domain(f)   = A
    codomain(f) = B
    range(f)    ⊆ B


    Haskell, Lisp, ML, Scheme, Erlang

    Focuses on the high-level "what"


    C++, Java, Python, Pascal

    Focuses on the low-level "how"

    What does this code do?

    void f(int a[], int lo, int hi) 
      int h, l, p, t;
      if (lo < hi) {
        l = lo;
        h = hi;
        p = a[hi];
        do {
          while ((l < h) && (a[l] <= p)) 
              l = l+1;
          while ((h > l) && (a[h] >= p))
              h = h-1;
          if (l < h) {
              t = a[l];
              a[l] = a[h];
              a[h] = t;
        } while (l < h);
        a[hi] = a[l];
        a[l] = p;
        f( a, lo, l-1 );
        f( a, l+1, hi );

    Sort in Haskell

    qsort :: Ord a => [a] -> [a]
    qsort []     = []
    qsort (p:xs) = (qsort lesser) ++ [p] ++ (qsort greater)
            lesser  = filter (< p) xs
            greater = filter (>= p) xs

    No variable assignments,

    No array indices,

    No memory management!

    No Side Effects

    Haskell code:

    count :: List -> Int
    When this function runs on a List, we get back an Int. No more, no less.

    C++ code:

    int count( List l ) { ... }
    C++ however doesn't promise integrity. Maybe it's doing file IO or updating a global variable. You can't trust the code won't burn down your house.

    2. Statically Typed

    • f x = x² + 1
    • f :: Int → Int
    • There is never confusion about types

      (Bool, Int, Char, etc)

    • Strong formalism. The proof is the code.
    • If your code compiles, you're 99% done


    Every function in haskell has a Type signature.

    foo :: Int -> String

    I don't know what foo means,

    but I know what it does!

    3. Lazy


    • Nothing is evaluated unless necessary
      head (sort ls)

      The list will only be sorted enough to find the minimum

    • Allows infinite data structures

    Who uses Haskell? *

    • AT&T

      automate form processing

    • Bank of America Merril Lynch

      data transformation and loading

    • Bump

      Haskell-based server

    • Facebook

      manipulating PHP code base

    • Google

      internal IT infrastructure

    • MITRE

      cryptographic protocol analysis

    • NVIDIA

      in-house tools

    • Qualcomm, Inc

      generate Lua bindings

    Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
    - Benjamin Lee Whorf
    The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
    - Ludwig Wittgenstein
    A language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming, is not worth knowing.
    - Alan Perlis

    Slide from


    The Journey Begins

    1. Install Haskell

    2. Run the interactive interpreter

       $ ghci
    3. Fill out this week's form