The first Visual F# CTP is here!

You leave on vacation for one short week and a lot happens... for example, Don Syme & co. have released the first F# CTP, well on the way (hopefully before this year's end) to put F# on the same level as C#, C++ or VB.NET. As far as I know, this will be an historical event: for the first time a mainstream platform (commercial or otherwise) wholly adopts a functional language. Allow me to seize the occasion to reiterate that there are several reasons for the functional programming paradigm to be considered interesting important, IMHO the most relevant are:

  1. The usage of high level functions and lazy evaluation allows us to reach higher levels of abstraction and modularization, which eases the programming of the ever more complex problems that we face.
  2. The extensive use of immutable values and structures greatly paves the way to code execution parallelization, which is especially relevant in today's multi-core CPU world.
  3. Functional thinking adapts particularly well to the solution of math problems (be them symbolic or numeric). Well, this last point may not have as broad reach as the former, but it is especially fascinating and useful for mathematicians and scientists (which in more than a few cases have had to stick to FORTRAN or use very specialized products like Matlab or Mathematica).

For reasons like these, functional programming has steadily invaded the programming scenario, for example:

  1. C# 3.0 has lambda and higher level functions (or a subset, at least, sort of...) and lazy evaluation (LINQ anyone?)
  2. In the Java world, people is starting to consider Scala, a functional language for the JVM
  3. There's renewed interest in specialty languages like Erlang (used at Ericsson to forge extremely scalable and reliable systems)
  4. F# will be a first class citizen in the .NET Framework world

An example of the F# September CTP running on my Visual Studio 2008 SP1:


If anybody is wondering what this code does, fibonacciSequence generates the Fibonacci numbers up to a given maximum, and the second function adds the even terms of the sequence up to a given limit. It's a succinct solution for Problem 2 @ Project Euler (and it would be interesting for you to try and solve it in your favorite language). It's all quechua to you? Well, that's just a matter of getting to know the language :-), IMHO the best way to learn F# is following the Expert F# book, co-authored by the language's father himself. Furthermore, Microsoft has put online the language official site, the F# Developer Center, where you will find several other resources.

By the way, it seems like the official name of the release will be Visual F# 1.0 (which actually corresponds to Version 2, counting from its inception at Microsoft Research). Finally, Visual F# requires only .NET 2.0, and an intriguing consequence of this is that you will be able to run F# code on Linux, thanks to the Mono  project, that is, you will have an open source functional programming platform, courtesy from Microsoft (and Novell).

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