Older blog entries for oubiwann (starting at number 303)

13 Jan 2014 (updated 13 Jan 2014 at 20:03 UTC) »

Prefix Operators in Haskell

I wanted to name this post something a little more catchy, like "McCarthy's Dream: Haskell as Lisp's M-Expressions" but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. If s-expressions had greater support in Haskell, I would totally have gone for it, but alas, they don't.

However, there is still reason to celebrate: many Haskell operators do support prefix notation! This was a mind-blower to me, since I hadn't  heard about this until last night...

At the Data Day Texas conference this past Saturday, O'Reilly/StrataConf had a fantastic booth. Among the many cool give-aways they were doing, I obtained a coupon for a free ebook and another for 50% off. Upon returning home and having made my free book decision, I was vacillating between an OCaml book and the famous Haskell one. I've done a little Haskell in the past but have never touched OCaml, so I was pretty tempted.

However, something amazing happened next. I stumbled upon a page that was comparing OCaml and Haskell, which led to another page... where Haskell prefix notation was mentioned. I know many Haskellers who might read this would shrug, or say "yeah, we know", but this was quite a delightful little discovery for me :-)

I don't remember the first page I found, but since then, I've come across a couple more resources:
That's pretty much it, though. (But please let me know if you know of or find any other resources!)

As such, I needed to do a lot more exploration. Initially, I was really excited and thought I'd be able to convert all Haskell forms to s-expressions (imports, lets, etc.), but I quickly found this was not the case. But the stuff that did work is pretty cool, and I saved it in a series of gists for your viewing pleasure :-)


The first test was pretty simple. Finding success, I thought I'd try something I do when using a Lisp/Scheme interpreter as a calculator. As you can see below, that didn't work (the full traceback is elided). Searching on Hoogλe got me to the answer I was looking for, though. Off to a good start:

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