Yacc in Sasl — an Exercise in Functional Programming

  • Simon Peyton Jones

Software—Practice & Experience | , Vol 15: pp. 807-820

Among the advantages claimed for a purely functional programming style is ease of designing and implementing large programs. However, little experience of actually doing so has been gained so far. The experience of writing a particular medium sized program in a functional language is described here, with particular emphasis on the differences in programming style that were appropriate. This is compared with the experience of writing a very similar program in an imperative language. The main conclusions appear to be that the functional version was significantly easier to write, and was considerably smaller, though not by as large a factor as is sometimes claimed; that strong typing is, if anything, more desirable than in imperative systems; and that the question of debugging functional programs needs further research attention.