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help an o'caml beginner
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Date: 2000-07-27 (17:41)
From: John BEPPU <beppu@l...>
Subject: help an o'caml beginner

Recently, there have been discussions about functional programming
on sites like slashdot, kuro5hin, and advogato.  This made me want
to investigate functional languages further.  I decided on O'Caml,
because there was a guy on slashdot who was very enthusiastic about
Standard ML.  There was also mention of O'Caml which was said to be 
a free dialect of ML and people generally had good things to say,
so I checked out the home page.  I happen to be a fan of the other
camel (Perl), but I hope you don't hold that against me.  ;-)

I've been trying to practice funcional techniques in Perl (mostly
by using recursion more often than I normally would and using
closures to make iterators).  However, I felt that I would not ever 
get a good understanding of the functional way if I didn't program 
in a (more) pure language.  That's another reason why I'm here.

Anyway, I hope you guys can help me.  

I tried out the recursive fibonacci number program that's in the

    let rec fib n =
        if n < 2 then 1 else fib(n-1) + fib(n-2);;
    let main () =
        let arg = int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) in
        print_int(fib arg);
        exit 0;;
    main ();;

I wrote a C implementation of the same recursive algorithm. 

    #include <stdio.h>

    int fib(int n)
        if (n < 2) {
            return 1;
        } else {
            return fib(n - 1) + fib(n - 2);

    int main(char *argc, char **argv)
        printf("%d\n", fib(atoi(argv[1])));
        return 0;

What surprised the fsck out of me was how fast the O'Caml version
was compared to the C version.  I checked the asm output of ocamlopt,
and that was some lean code.  I was not expecting results like this,
so I was quite pleasantly surprised.  The performance of ocamlopt is
yet another reason I'm here.

Next, I wrote an iterative C version.

    #include <stdio.h>

    int fib(int n)
        int val = 2;
        int n1 = 2;
        int n2 = 1;
        int i;
        if (n < 2)
            return n;

        for (i = 2; i < n; i++) {
            val = n2 + n1;
            n2 = n1;
            n1 = val;
        return val;

    int main(char *argc, char **argv)
        printf("%d\n", fib(atoi(argv[1])));
        return 0;

This was much faster than any of the recursive versions, because it 
doesn't have to recompute the same values over and over again.  

Next, I tried to fumble my way through making an O'Caml version of
this iterative algorithm, but I failed due to my lack of knowledge
about this language.  (I hesitate to print the tutorial, because
that's a lot of paper -- I wish the tutorial were available in HTML.
I just may have to print it, though.)

If anyone out there could implement an O'Caml fibonacci number
generator that doesn't make redundant calculations, I would really
appreciate it.  I just need something to study.

I wrote a recursive Perl version that doesn't make redundant
calculations, and I'd be interested to see how different in
structure an O'Caml version would be.

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w

    use strict;

    sub fib_pair {
        my $n = shift;
        my @seq;
        if ($n < 2) {
            @seq = (1, 1);
        } else {
            @seq = fib_pair($n - 1);
            @seq = ($seq[1], $seq[0] + $seq[1]);
        return @seq;

    sub fib {
        my $n = shift;
        return (fib_pair($n))[1];

    print fib($ARGV[0]), "\n";

Thanks for reading this far.  I understand that English is a foreign
language to many of you, and I'm terribly sorry I had to write so