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When functional languages can be accepted by industry?
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Date: 2000-04-06 (13:03)
From: Dennis (Gang) Chen <Dennis.G.Chen@m...>
Subject: When functional languages can be accepted by industry?

Functional languages have not been very successful in industry. Why?

When writing database applications, we use Access, Oracle and languages
which support interfeaces to these database systems.

When writing an application which needs user friendly interface,  one can use Delphi,
or Java,  Visual Basic, Visual C++, C++ Builder etc.

When writing text manipulation programs, perl is a good choice.

For internet application, one use Java, perl, Deplhi, Visual C++ etc.

When higher order functions are required, we can use any OO language, because
an object with one method can be viewed as a function, so if a function can accept
objects as  inputs and output an object, then this function is a higher order function.

To write polymorphic functions, one can use templates in C++.

For data structures which require dynamic memory allocation, one can consider
Standard Template Library (STL) in C++.  From STL, you can choose list, set,
map, tree templates, which are sufficient for most purposes.

The templates in STL are more efficient than list in functinal languages.  For example,
if you use list to implement  set, then a deletion of an element from a set will require
reconstruction of a part of the list, which has  significant memory cost. In STL
templates, this is a simple pointer operation.

To write a parser, I prefer to use ocaml as I'm aware  of its adavantage
in this aspect. But I've learnt that there are other compiler tools available.

Functional languages in ML family are equiped with a much better type system
than C++, this reduce errors in programs, but industry has its own procedure to
ensure the reliability of program. So the weakness in C++ does not bother too

Module in ocaml is an attractive feature.  Large applications are built in a refinement
and different implementations for a given interface will be experimented. Module
should be good  for this, and it is not available in C++.

The size of functional language program is usually small, this feature probably would give
a chance
for functinal language to enter industry. A program stored in a smart card or in a mobile
can not be a big one.

Are there other features of functional language which will attract industry?

Dennis Gang CHEN    Senior Software Engineer
Motorola Australia Software Centre, Electronic Design Automation
2 Second Avenue, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia
phone: +61 8 8203 3560,  mailto: