Everything Tagged "Clojure from the ground up"
In this chapter, we’ll discuss some of Clojure’s mechanisms for polymorphism: writing programs that do different things depending on what kind of inputs they receive. We’ll show ways to write open functions, which can be extended to new conditions later on, without changing their original definitions. Along the way, we’ll investigate Clojure’s type system in more detail–discussing interfaces, protocols, how to construct our own datatypes, and the relationships between types which let us write flexible programs.
Writing software can be an exercise in frustration. Useless error messages, difficult-to-reproduce bugs, missing stacktrace information, obscure functions without documentation, and unmaintained libraries all stand in our way. As software engineers, our most useful skill isn’t so much knowing how to solve a problem as knowing how to explore a problem that we haven’t seen before. Experience is important, but even experienced engineers face unfamiliar bugs every day. When a problem doesn’t bear a resemblance to anything we’ve seen before, we fall back on general cognitive strategies to explore–and ultimately solve–the problem.
With the language fundamentals in hand, here’s my thinking for the remainder of the Clojure from the ground up book chapters. I’m putting Jepsen on hold to work on this project for the rest of the year; hoping to get the source material complete by… January?
- Debugging and getting help
- Error Handling
- Modularization and refactoring
- It’s not at all obvious what an object is
- JVM interop
- The Clojure type system
- Compiler at runtime
- Build your own language
- Performance analysis
- Parsers and protocols
- Storage and persistence
- Networks and messaging
- Concurrency and queues
Until this point in the book, we’ve dealt primarily in specific details: what an expression is, how math works, which functions apply to different data structures, and where code lives. But programming, like speaking a language, painting landscapes, or designing turbines, is about more than the nuts and bolts of the trade. It’s knowing how to combine those parts into a cohesive whole–and this is a skill which is difficult to describe formally. In this part of the book, I’d like to work with you on an integrative tour of one particular problem: modeling a rocket in flight.
Previously, we covered state and mutability.
Up until now, we’ve been programming primarily at the REPL. However, the REPL is a limited tool. While it lets us explore a problem interactively, that interactivity comes at a cost: changing an expression requires retyping the entire thing, editing multi-line expressions is awkward, and our work vanishes when we restart the REPL–so we can’t share our programs with others, or run them again later. Moreover, programs in the REPL are hard to organize. To solve large problems, we need a way of writing programs durably–so they can be read and evaluated later.
Most programs encompass change. People grow up, leave town, fall in love, and take new names. Engines burn through fuel while their parts wear out, and new ones are swapped in. Forests burn down and their logs become nurseries for new trees. Despite these changes, we say “She’s still Nguyen”, “That’s my motorcycle”, “The same woods I hiked through as a child.”
In Chapter 1, I asserted that the grammar of Lisp is uniform: every expression is a list, beginning with a verb, and followed by some arguments. Evaluation proceeds from left to right, and every element of the list must be evaluated before evaluating the list itself. Yet we just saw, at the end of Sequences, an expression which seemed to violate these rules.
Clearly, this is not the whole story.
In Chapter 3, we discovered functions as a way to abstract expressions; to rephrase a particular computation with some parts missing. We used functions to transform a single value. But what if we want to apply a function to more than one value at once? What about sequences?
For example, we know that
(inc 2) increments the number 2. What if we wanted to increment every number in the vector
[1 2 3], producing
[2 3 4]?
We left off last chapter with a question: what are verbs, anyway? When you evaluate
(type :mary-poppins), what really happens?
user=> (type :mary-poppins) clojure.lang.Keyword
We’ve learned the basics of Clojure’s syntax and evaluation model. Now we’ll take a tour of the basic nouns in the language.
This guide aims to introduce newcomers and experienced programmers alike to the beauty of functional programming, starting with the simplest building blocks of software. You’ll need a computer, basic proficiency in the command line, a text editor, and an internet connection. By the end of this series, you’ll have a thorough command of the Clojure programming language.