Getting to know some pragmatic programming language features

As you know, in the Pragmatic Programmer, section Your Knowledge Portfolio, it is said that

Learn at least one new language every year. Different languages solve the same problems in different ways. By learning several different approaches, you can help broaden your thinking and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Additionally, learning many languages is far easier now, thanks to the wealth of freely available software on the Internet

I see learning programming languages as a chance to open up my horizon and learn some new concepts. It also encourage good habit like immutability, composition, modulation, …

I’d like to review some of the features of all the languages I have played with. Some are useful, some just make me interested or say “wow”

Curly braces

Each language can have its own style of grouping block of code, but I myself like the curly braces the most, which are cute :]

Some like C, Java, Swift, … use curly braces


init(total: Double, taxPct: Double) { = total
  self.taxPct = taxPct
  subtotal = total / (taxPct + 1)

Some like Haskell, Python, … use indentation


bmiTell :: (RealFloat a) => a -> String  
bmiTell bmi  
    | bmi <= 18.5 = "You're underweight, you emo, you!"  
    | bmi <= 25.0 = "You're supposedly normal. Pffft, I bet you're ugly!"  
    | bmi <= 30.0 = "You're fat! Lose some weight, fatty!"  
    | otherwise   = "You're a whale, congratulations!"

Some like Elixir use keyword list


if false, do: :this, else: :that

Named parameter

Language like Objective C, Swift offer named parameter, which make it easier to reason about a function call

func sayHello(to person: String, and anotherPerson: String) -> String {
    return "Hello (person) and (anotherPerson)!"

Explicit type

Language like C, Swift, Java, … have type information in parameter and in return, which make it easier to reason about a function call


func sayHello(personName: String, alreadyGreeted: Bool) -> String {
    if alreadyGreeted {
        return sayHelloAgain(personName)
    } else {
        return sayHello(personName)

List comprehension

Languages like Haskell, Python, Elixir, support list comprehension


iex> for n <- [1, 2, 3, 4], do: n * n
[1, 4, 9, 16]

First class function

I enjoy functional programming, so first class function support in Javascript, Swift, Haskell, Elixir, … really make me happy


zipWith' (*) (replicate 5 2) [1..]


Currying is the technique of translating the evaluation of a function that takes multiple arguments (or a tuple of arguments) into evaluating a sequence of functions, each with a single argument (partial application)

Language like Swift 2, Haskell, … have curry by default. Some like Javascript can use libraries (Lodash, …) to achieve this. In Haskell, every function officially only takes one parameter.

In Swift 3, curry was removed :(


multThree :: (Num a) => a -> a -> a -> a  
multThree x y z = x * y * z

By calling functions with too few parameters, we’re creating new functions on the fly.


var curry = require('lodash.curry');
var map = curry(function(f, ary) {
var getChildren = function(x) {
  return x.childNodes;
var allTheChildren = map(getChildren);

Pattern matching

I find pattern matching as a better way around if else statement

Swift supports pattern matching in switch statement


enum Trades {
    case Buy(stock: String, amount: Int, stockPrice: Float)
    case Sell(stock: String, amount: Int, stockPrice: Float)
let aTrade = Trades.Buy(stock: "APPL", amount: 200, stockPrice: 115.5)
switch aTrade {
case .Buy(let stock, let amount, _):
    process(stock, amount)
case .Sell(let stock, let amount, _):
    process(stock, amount * -1)

Some like Haskell, Elixir, … also pattern matches on function name, which makes it work great for recursion


sayMe :: (Integral a) => a -> String  
sayMe 1 = "One!"  
sayMe 2 = "Two!"  
sayMe 3 = "Three!"  
sayMe 4 = "Four!"  
sayMe 5 = "Five!"  
sayMe x = "Not between 1 and 5"  

map _ []     = []
map f (x:xs) = f x : map f xs

In Elixir, the = operator is actually a match operator


iex> x = 1
iex> x
iex> 1 = x
iex> 2 = x
** (MatchError) no match of right hand side value: 1


Some language like Haskell, Elixir, … don’t use loop, they use recursion with performance in mind, no overflow.


length' :: (Num b) => [a] -> b  
length' [] = 0  
length' (_:xs) = 1 + length' xs


Some languages support infinite collection, thanks to their laziness.

Haskell is lazy, if you map something over a list several times and filter it several times, it will only pass over the list once


largestDivisible :: (Integral a) => a  
largestDivisible = head (filter p [100000,99999..])  
    where p x = x `mod` 3829 == 0

Elixir defines the concept of Eager with Enum and Lazy with Stream


1..100_000 |> * 3)) |> Enum.filter(odd?) |> Enum.sum

Custom operator

Elixir is famous for its pipe |> operator

The |> symbol used in the snippet above is the pipe operator: it simply takes the output from the expression on its left side and passes it as the first argument to the function call on its right side


1..100_000 |> * 3)) |> Enum.filter(odd?) |> Enum.sum

Haskell often takes advantage of this custom -: operator Haskell

x -: f = f x  
(0,0) -: landLeft 1 -: landRight 1 -: landLeft 2

Functor, Applicative Functor, Monoid, Monad

I really like enjoy Haskell because of these typeclasses. It realizes common pattern (map, apply, join, bind, …) with comptutational context. It really enlightens me when I find that function is a Monad as well (you should read the Reader monad)


instance Monad Maybe where  
    return x = Just x  
    Nothing >>= f = Nothing  
    Just x >>= f  = f x  
    fail _ = Nothing  
landLeft :: Birds -> Pole -> Maybe Pole  
landLeft n (left,right)  
    | abs ((left + n) - right) < 4 = Just (left + n, right)  
    | otherwise                    = Nothing  
landRight :: Birds -> Pole -> Maybe Pole  
landRight n (left,right)  
    | abs (left - (right + n)) < 4 = Just (left, right + n)  
    | otherwise                    = Nothing
ghci> return (0,0) >>= landLeft 1 >>= banana >>= landRight 1  

List comprehension in Haskell is just syntactic sugar for using lis as Monad Haskell

ghci> [ (n,ch) | n <- [1,2], ch <- ['a','b'] ]  


enum Result<T> {
    case Value(T)
    case Error(NSError)
extension Result {
    func map<U>(f: T -> U) -> Result<U> {
        switch self {
            case let .Value(value):
                return Result<U>.Value(f(value))
            case let .Error(error):
                return Result<U>.Error(error)
extension Result {
    static func flatten<T>(result: Result<Result<T>>) -> Result<T> {
        switch result {
            case let .Value(innerResult):
                return innerResult
            case let .Error(error):
                return Result<T>.Error(error)
extension Result {
    func flatMap<U>(f: T -> Result<U>) -> Result<U> {
        return Result.flatten(map(f))

Trait and mixin

Languages like Scala, … support trait

Similar to interfaces in Java, traits are used to define object types by specifying the signature of the supported methods. Unlike Java, Scala allows traits to be partially implemented; i.e. it is possible to define default implementations for some methods


trait Similarity {
  def isSimilar(x: Any): Boolean
  def isNotSimilar(x: Any): Boolean = !isSimilar(x)
class Point(xc: Int, yc: Int) extends Similarity {
  var x: Int = xc
  var y: Int = yc
  def isSimilar(obj: Any) =
    obj.isInstanceOf[Point] &&
    obj.asInstanceOf[Point].x == x

Swift can uses Protocol Extension to achieve trait


protocol GunTrait {
    func shoot() -> String {
        return "Shoot"
protocol RenderTrait {
    func render() -> String {
        return "Render"
struct Player: GameObject, AITrait, GunTrait, RenderTrait, HealthTrait {

Ruby supports Mixin via Module


module Greetings
  def hello
    puts "Hello!"
  def bonjour
    puts "Bonjour!"
  def hola
    puts "Hola!"
class User
  include Greetings

Delegate property

There are certain common kinds of properties that would be very nice to implement once and for all like lazy, observable and storing. An example is in Kotlin

class Delegate {
    operator fun getValue(thisRef: Any?, property: KProperty<*>): String {
        return "$thisRef, thank you for delegating '${}' to me!"
    operator fun setValue(thisRef: Any?, property: KProperty<*>, value: String) {
        println("$value has been assigned to '${}' in $thisRef.")

Where to go from here

Hope you find something interesting. Each language has its own pros and is designed for specific purpose. So no list will be enough to cover them all.

To take a quick peek into other programming languages, I find Learn in One Video by Derek very helpful.

There are things that intrigue us every day like Swift initialization rule make it explicit when using initializer, Go goroutine and channel for concurrent code, Elixir process for easy concurrent and message communication. You’ll be amazed by how process encapsulates state, Haskell data type encourages immutability and thread safe code, Elixir macro for great extension of the language. The best way to to learn is to use and dive into the languages often.

May your code continue to compile.

Source: hackernoon