# First Steps

Values, functions, and types are the fundamental building blocks of a Haskell program; so, before we get started writing code, let's have a quick (and for now quite superficial) look at what these terms mean.

## Values

Values are terms, such as `5` (an integer number), `"Hello World!"` (a character string), and `3.141` (a floating point number). Values are processed by functions. For example, addition `+` takes two numbers and produces a new number, namely the sum of the two input values; `++` takes two strings and produces a new string by concatenating the two input strings; `length` takes a string and produces a number, namely the length of the input string. In other words, functions, such as `+`, `++`, and `length`, are mappings from input values to output values.

We can combine multiple values and functions, by using the result of a function application as input value for another function, as in

``length ("Hello " ++ "World!")``

The application of `++` to `"Hello "` and `"World!"` results in the string `"Hello World!"`, which is the input value for the function `length`. Such a composition of values and functions is called an expression or term.

## Types

Values can be grouped into sets with similar properties. For example, values which represent integers, strings, booleans, or floating point numbers. We call such sets of values types. Some examples of types which are present in most programming languages are the following:

• `Int` = {…, `-3`, `-2`, `-1`, `0`, `1`, `2`, `3`, …}

A subset of the mathematical integer type. The smallest and largest `Int` value depends on the programming language and may also depend on hardware parameters.

• `Float` = {…, `-1232.42342`, …, `1.0`, `3.141`, …}

Real numbers cannot be represented accurately on a computer with a fixed number of bits. `Float` approximates real numbers.

• `Double` = {… , `-1232.42342`, …, `1.0`, `3.141`, …}

Same as `Float`, but uses twice as many bits to store the information and provides double the precision.

• `Char` = {…, `'a'`, `'A'`, `'b'`, `'B'`, …`'1'`, …, `'@'`, `'#'`, …}

Characters representing letters, digits, newlines, tabs and other symbols. (In Haskell, they include the entire Unicode range.)

• `String` = {`""`, `"a"`, `"b"`, …, `"Hi"` ,`"3423#"`, …}

Strings are (possibly empty) sequences of characters.

• `Bool` = {`False`, `True`}

Representing Boolean truth values.

We write `1 :: Int` or `"Hello" :: String` to indicate that the values `1` and `Hello` have the the type `Int` and `String`, respectively. Hence, `1 :: Int` can be read as “`1` has type `Int`”.

Types essentially describe sets of values with similar properties and help us to distinguish correct from erroneous programs. For example, the expression `1 + "abc"` contains a type error, because the string value `"abc"` does not match the type of argument expected by `+`. We call an expression without type errors well typed. Programming languages that enforce a rigorous type discipline are often called strongly typed languages. Type errors should generally be regarded as a hint by the programming system, telling us that part of our program do not make sense —the program is inconsistent— and they are one of the means by which the programming system helps us write better programs.

## Functions

We have seen that, by applying functions to values, we can compute new values; but, how can we define new functions? Let us start with a simple example and write a function that increments a number by the value `1`; let us call this function `inc`. So, the application `inc 10` should produce `11`, `inc 11` should produce `12`, and so forth — in other words, for any number `x`, the expression `inc x`, should yield `x + 1`. This general rule is formalised by the following function definition: A function definition comprises a head and a body separated by an equals sign. The head consists of the name of the function as well as names for the arguments to the function. In our example, there is only one argument denoted by the `x`. When `inc` is applied to an argument value, the result of the application is computed by replacing all occurrences of the variable `x` in the function body by the argument value:

`inc 2`  ⇒  `2 + 1`  ⇒  `3`

The arrow “ ⇒ ” represents a step in progressing from an expression to the value denoted by that expression. This process is called expression evaluation and corresponds to the execution of a program.

We can apply the function `inc` multiple times to a value by nesting the function application:

`inc (inc 5)`  ⇒  `inc (5 + 1)`  ⇒  `inc 6`  ⇒  `6 + 1`  ⇒  `7`

In our example, the choice of the name for the variable `x` and the function `inc` was arbitrary. There are, however, some syntactic restrictions for variable and function names in Haskell: the name of a function or variable

• has to start with a lower case letter or `_` (underscore) and

• may only contain letters, digits, `_` (underscore), or `'` (apostrophe).

Moreover, when defining new functions, we have to be careful not to use a function name that does already carry a meaning, such as `length`. In programming languages, the names of objects, such as variables, are often called identifiers.

If we use an identifier the compiler does not know, as for example in the following incorrect definition of `inc`

``inc x = y + 1``

we will get an error message from the compiler of the form

``Not in scope: `y'``

which means that the variable `y` appears at a point in the programm where it is not defined.

## Type Signatures

Functions map input values to output values, for example, `inc` maps integers to integers, or pictorially Thus, we denote the type of `inc` as `Int -> Int`. Overall, a complete function definition appears as follows:

``````inc :: Int -> Int     -- type signature
inc x = x + 1         -- function equation``````

Function signatures are optional, but they provide documentation for other programmers and help the Haskell system to spot type errors (i.e., inconsistencies between what we think a function is doing and what it is actually doing). In the above example, also note how Haskell allows us to annotate function definitions with comments in plain English by introducing these annotations with `--` (a sequence of two minus signs). Such comments are disregarded by the computer, but may help other humans reading our program to understand its purpose. Comments introduced by `--` extend until the end of the current line. Alternatively, we can enclose the text of a comment in `{-` and `-}`. That second form of comments may extend over multiple lines and may be nested.

In general, two functions, such as `inc` and `double`,

``````double :: Int -> Int
double x = 2 * x``````

may have the same type, but perform different operations. Nevertheless, like values of the same type, functions of the same type have something in common: they accept and produce values of the same kind.

As an example of a function with a type different from `inc` and `double` consider

``````exclaim :: String -> String
exclaim sentence  = sentence ++ "!"``````

The functions `inc` and `double` expect integers as arguments, whereas `exclaim` expects a string. Consequently, the expression `inc "abc"` is nonsensical and leads to a type error.

## Multiple Arguments

We can compute the average value of the two floating point values `3.0` and `4.0` as follows:

``(3.0 + 4.0) / 2.0``

If we generalise this to computing the average of two numbers `a` and `b`, we get

``(a + b) / 2.0``

which we can turn into a function with two arguments as follows:

``````average :: Float -> Float -> Float
average a b  = (a + b) / 2.0``````

So, we have

`average 3.0 4.0`  ⇒  `(3.0 + 4.0)/2.0`  ⇒  `3.5`

The type of a function with more than one argument separates the arguments with an arrow (`->`). This symmetry in notation between argument types and the result type may be somewhat surprising at first, but there is a good reason for it.

You can view a function with two arguments, such as `average`, as a box with two free slots: Once the function is applied to an argument of type `Float`, the first slot is filled, and it results in a new box with only a single free slot remaining, or in other words, it results in a new function which maps a value `y` provided as an argument to `(3.0 + y)/2.0`. Only when the second argument is provided, and all slots are filled, can the function be fully evaluated and return the result value of type `Float`: This means that, conceptually, we can view `average` as a function which, when applied to a single `Float`, will return a new function from `Float` to `Float`, or as a function which takes two `Float` values to produce a `Float`. In fact, `Float -> Float -> Float` is just short hand for `Float -> (Float -> Float)`, as `->` is right associative. Application is left associative, so

``average 3.0 4.0``

is just short hand for

``(average 3.0) 4.0``

Functions of multiple arguments that can be applied to their arguments one at a time (as is the case with `average`) are called curried functions (after the mathematician Haskell B. Curry — the Haskell language was named after him as well). In Haskell, all functions of multiple arguments are curried by default.

In our diagram, a value is a box without any empty slots, just like a function which has been applied to all its arguments. As we will see later, values and functions are treated almost the same in Haskell.

## Writing Code

Now that we know about the basics, let's define and test the functions we discussed above. For our demos, we are using Haskell for Mac, an integrated programming environment based on the Glasgow Haskell Compiler for Mac OS X. However, as an alternative, you can simply use the Glasgow Haskell Compiler's command line interpreter in combination with any editor you like.

In Haskell for Mac, we edit the program in the module editor. Once a function is defined, we can use it in the playground, and the results, as well as the types of the results, will automatically be displayed. If there is an error in the program (wrong variable name in the screencast), an error marker appears and by clicking on it, we can see the exact error message.

The following screencast shows how to do essentially the same with an editor (using AquaEmacs here) and the Glasgow Haskell Compiler Interpreter (ghci) running in a shell. The main difference is that we have to save and reload the program file after each edit and that we have to relate error messages to program locations by way of the line numbers contained in each error message.

## Infix and Prefix Application

Functions like `+` and `*` are binary functions, that is, functions which expect exactly two arguments, just like our `average` function. When we want to apply `average`, we first write the function name and then the arguments

``average 6.9 7.25``

while with addition and multiplication, we place the function in-between the arguments:

``````1   + 5
3.4 * 7.2``````

We call the former notation prefix, as the function appears before the arguments, and the latter infix, as it is in-between its argument. We can easily convert an infix function into a prefix one by simply placing it in parenthesis:

``````(+) 1   5
(*) 3.4 7.2``````

and conversely, we can use a regular binary function as infix operator by placing its name between backquotes:

``6.9  `average` 7.25``

Binary functions in backquotes are, by default, left associative, this means that multiple applications, as in

``6.9  `average` 7.25 `average` 3.4``

are implicitely grouped to the left; so, the above expression is the same as

``(6.9  `average` 7.25) `average` 3.4``

Which notation you use is a matter of style. In general, people can parse arithmetic expressions much more easily if they are in infix notation.

All serious programming languages provide some functions whose argument types are not restricted to a single type, but instead a whole family of types is admitted. For example, both `1 + 2` (where the arguments are of type `Int`) as well as `1.5 + 1.2` (where the arguments are of type `Float`) make sense. Consequently, the function `+` simultaneously has the type

``(+) :: Int -> Int -> Int``

as well as the type

``(+) :: Float -> Float -> Float``

We call functions, such as `+`, overloaded functions; the name of an overloaded function carries more than just one meaning as witnessed by the multiplicity of type signatures. The motivation for permitting overloaded functions, such as +, is that it would be awkward to enforce the use of two different symbols —that is, two different function names— for the two cases of adding integers or adding floating-point numbers. (Note that Haskell requires us to use the prefix notation of an operator in a type signature; i.e., we write `(+)` and not just `+`.)

Unfortunately, all of this means that, given our current knowledge, we cannot denote the type of + in a single type signature of the form `(+) :: type`; instead, we have to resort to a family of type signatures (one for each possible type of +). To improve on this, we need to consider additional notation, where we exploit the fact that both argument types and the result type in one particular use of + are always identical. In other words, we might say that + has type `a -> a -> a` where `a` is either `Int` or `Float`. In fact, Haskell does not restrict `a` to only `Int` or `Float`, but instead allows any numeric type (most of which we have not encountered yet). We denote the set of numeric types by `Num` and generally call such sets of types type classes.

Using the type class `Num`, we can specify the type of + to be `a -> a -> a`, where the type `a` is a member of set `Num`, or, using mathematical notation `a` ∈ `Num`. Haskell abbreviates `a` ∈ `Num` to `Num a` and places it in front of the function type separated by a double arrow `=>`. Hence, the closed form of the type signature for + is

``(+) :: Num a => a -> a -> a``

Other binary arithmetic operations, such as `-` and `*`, have the same type. Note how types, such as `Int` and `Float`, as well as type classes, such as `Num`, have names starting with an upper case letter, whereas place holders, such as `a`, have names starting with a lower case letter. This convention simplifies reading type signatures and is enforced in Haskell. We call place holders in types, such as `a` above, type variables. They are important in programming languages that have a sophisticated type system.

In addition to `Num`, another important type class is `Eq`. It contains all those types for which the function `==` is defined, which checks whether its two arguments are equal. All types that we have encountered so far, except function types, are part of `Eq`. So, all of the following make sense:

`2 == 2`  ⇒  `True`

`5.0 == 6.0`  ⇒  `False`

`(“Hello ” ++ “World!”) == “Hello World!”`  ⇒  `True`

The type of `==` is

``(==) :: Eq a => a -> a -> Bool``

where `Bool` is the type of Boolean values `False` and `True`.

Another important type class is `Show`. It contains all types for which the system knows how to convert them to a string representation, and the most important function of this class of values is the `show` function:

``show :: Show a => a -> String``

All the basic types we have looked at are in this type class. For example:

`show 123`  ⇒  `“123”`

`show 1.75`  ⇒  `"1.75”`

`show False`  ⇒  `“False”`

`show “False”`  ⇒  `"\"False\""`

It is important to note that the `Int` value `123` and the string `"123"` are two fundamentally different objects, same for the boolean value `False` and the string `"False"`. As we can see in the last example, if we apply `show` to a value which is already a string, it returns a different string, containing the opening and closing quotes as additional characters.

Functions are not in the type class `Show`, so if we try and apply `show` to the function `inc`, for example, the compiler will complain:

``````    No instance for (Show (Int -> Int)) arising from a use of `show'
Possible fix: add an instance declaration for (Show (Int -> Int))
In the expression: show inc
In an equation for `it': it = show inc``````

The compiler message `No instance for (Show (Int -> Int))` means that the type `Int -> Int` is (so far) not in in the type class `Show`. We will later see that we can extend type classes, and the compiler suggests to do so as a fix.

The function `show` is also invoked whenever we enter an expression in a Haskell for Mac playground or at the GHCi prompt: after the expression is evaluated, the system tries to convert it to a string using the `show` function, so it can print it. Therefore, if we just enter a function in a playground or at the GHCi prompt, we will see a similar error message. All this is illustrated in the following screencast.

Frequently used type classes and overloaded functions. We will cover type classes and overloading in more detail in later chapters. For now, here is an overview of some frequently used type classes, and some overloaded operations on these type classes.

• Typeclass `Show`

• functions: `show :: Show a => a -> String`: convert the given value into a string.

• member types: almost all predefined types, excluding function types.

• Typeclass `Eq`

• functions: `(==), (/=) :: Eq a => a -> a -> Bool`: equality and inequality.

• member types: almost all predefined types, excluding function types.

• Typeclass `Ord`

• functions: `(<), (>), (<=), (>=) :: Ord a => a -> a-> Bool`: less than, greater than, less or equal, greater or equal

• member types: almost all predefined types, excluding function types.

• all types in `Ord` are already in `Eq`, so if you are using both `==` and `<` on a value, it is sufficient to require it to be in `Ord`.

• Typeclass `Num`

• functions: `(+), (-), (*) :: Num a => a -> a -> a`: arithmetic operations.

• member types: `Float`, `Double`, `Int`, `Integer`

• Typeclass `Integral`

• functions: `div, mod :: Integral a => a -> a -> a`: division.

• member types: `Int` (fixed precision), `Integer` (arbitrary precision)

• Typeclass `Fractional`

• functions: `(/) :: Fractional a => a -> a -> a`: division.

• member types: `Float`, `Double`

• Typeclass `Floating`

• functions: `sin, cos, tan, exp, sqrt,… :: Floating a => a -> a`: trigonometric and other functions.

• member types: `Float`, `Double`

We will introduce more type classes and operations as we use them. If you want to find out more about a type class, select its name and type `⌘-i` in Haskell for Mac, or use `:info TYPECLASS-NAME` in GHCi.

## Exercises

1. What is the difference between the type `Char` and the type `String`? Do the two expressions `"a"` and `'a'` represent the same value?

2. Given the function definition

``````square :: Int -> Int
square x = x * x``````

and the previous definitions of `inc` and `double`. What is the value of

1. `inc (square 5)`

2. `square (inc 5)`

3. `average (inc 3) (inc 5)`

3. If you remove the optional type annotation from the above definition of `square`, what type will the compiler infer? You can find out by pressing `⌘-i` in Haskell for Mac, while your cursor is on the function name, or by typing `:type square` or `:t square` in GHCi.

4. Which of the following identifiers can be function or variable names?

• `square_1`

• `1square`

• `Square`

• `square!`

• `square'`

If you are unsure, replace the function name in your `square` definition from Exercise 2 with each of these identifiers to see whether the compiler complains and what the error message looks like.

5. Define a new function `showResult`, that, for example, given the number `123`, produces a string as follows:

`showResult 123`  ⇒  `"The result is 123"`

Use the function `show` in the definition of the new function.

6. Write a function `showAreaOfCircle` which, given the radius of a circle, calculates the area of the circle,

`showAreaOfCircle 12.3`  ⇒  `"The area of a circle with radius 12.3cm is about 475.2915525615999 cm^2"`

Use the `show` function, as well as the predefined value `pi :: Floating a => a` to write `showAreaOfCircle`.