Ivy: Rob Pike's APL-Like Language / Desk Calculator

This page summarizes the projects mentioned and recommended in the original post on news.ycombinator.com

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  • wuffs

    Wrangling Untrusted File Formats Safely

    > Programing languages require precedence rules

    WUFFS doesn't have operator precedence. https://github.com/google/wuffs/blob/main/doc/wuffs-the-lang...

    As its designers explain: A bare a * b + c is an invalid expression. You must explicitly write either (a * b) + c or a * (b + c).

    Why doesn't WUFFS have precedence? Because it's focused intensely on solving its specific problem, Wrangling Untrusted File Formats Safely. Having solved the buffer problem (you can't write buffer[oops_too_big] type mistakes in WUFFS, they will not compile) and the integer overflow problem (likewise, it doesn't compile) they wanted to also solve that problem where the programmer thought there were making one calculation, but due to precedence rules they were actually making a different calculation.

  • ivy

    ivy, an APL-like calculator (by robpike)

    I really like Ivy as a simple, friendly introduction to APL. There is a surprising lack of APL-derived languages that use words to name things -- most stick with the original symbols; J and friends choose equally-cryptic symbols composed of ASCII characters.

    Earlier this year I decided to solve AoC 2021 in Ivy, then watch Russ Cox's videos to see how he did it and use that to learn something about array programming -- a topic I knew absolutely nothing about going into this.

    Unfortunately, Ivy really is, as Rob Pike says, a plaything. It is buggy -- if you ever write a function that returns a vector or a higher-rank array, you are entering bizarre undefined behavior territory. The array-language equivalent of "concat_map" or "flat_map" or "map-cat" or whatever you want to call it just produces garbage values, which is very confusing when you're learning about array programming for the first time ("Wait, this vector says its length is 25, but it contains 50 elements...?" or "The transpose of this array is just the first column repeated over and over??").

    Beyond that, a very cool thing about array languages is that, you know, functions can implicitly act on entire arrays. You can multiple a vector by 2 and it will know to multiply every element in the vector by 2, because multiplication is defined for scalars.

    But in Ivy, this is only true for the built-in functions. There is no way to write user-defined functions that have this implicit act-on-every-element behavior. Which is basically the looping primitive in array languages -- so to do anything nontrivial, you have to write it out with explicit recursion (still with the caveat that your functions can only return scalars, or you enter undefined behavior town) or rewrite your operations as binary operations with an ignored right-hand side and use "fold" to "map" them. It's bad.

    The latter is crippling enough that Russ Cox [eventually forks Ivy](https://github.com/robpike/ivy/pull/83) to add support for it, but it is not currently part of the language.

    Anyway that's a long comment to say: Ivy is a good, friendly introduction to APL syntax (stranding, precedence, etc) and some array language concepts, but it is far more of a calculator than a programming language.

    But it's a good arbitrary-precision calculator! And if you're still interested in trying it, maybe check out this thing I made. It's an... Ivy programming environment?... that lets you run Ivy scripts and see the results inline. (Ivy's repl is... very primitive, and has to be wrapped by something like readline. Russ Cox uses 9term to get around this; self-modifying programs are my preferred approach.)

    https://github.com/ianthehenry/privy

    My frustration with Ivy led me to look into other array languages, trying to find one that 1) used English words instead of cryptic symbols and 2) worked. And I really couldn't find any! Someone should do something about that. :)

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  • privy

    inline output for the ivy array language

    I really like Ivy as a simple, friendly introduction to APL. There is a surprising lack of APL-derived languages that use words to name things -- most stick with the original symbols; J and friends choose equally-cryptic symbols composed of ASCII characters.

    Earlier this year I decided to solve AoC 2021 in Ivy, then watch Russ Cox's videos to see how he did it and use that to learn something about array programming -- a topic I knew absolutely nothing about going into this.

    Unfortunately, Ivy really is, as Rob Pike says, a plaything. It is buggy -- if you ever write a function that returns a vector or a higher-rank array, you are entering bizarre undefined behavior territory. The array-language equivalent of "concat_map" or "flat_map" or "map-cat" or whatever you want to call it just produces garbage values, which is very confusing when you're learning about array programming for the first time ("Wait, this vector says its length is 25, but it contains 50 elements...?" or "The transpose of this array is just the first column repeated over and over??").

    Beyond that, a very cool thing about array languages is that, you know, functions can implicitly act on entire arrays. You can multiple a vector by 2 and it will know to multiply every element in the vector by 2, because multiplication is defined for scalars.

    But in Ivy, this is only true for the built-in functions. There is no way to write user-defined functions that have this implicit act-on-every-element behavior. Which is basically the looping primitive in array languages -- so to do anything nontrivial, you have to write it out with explicit recursion (still with the caveat that your functions can only return scalars, or you enter undefined behavior town) or rewrite your operations as binary operations with an ignored right-hand side and use "fold" to "map" them. It's bad.

    The latter is crippling enough that Russ Cox [eventually forks Ivy](https://github.com/robpike/ivy/pull/83) to add support for it, but it is not currently part of the language.

    Anyway that's a long comment to say: Ivy is a good, friendly introduction to APL syntax (stranding, precedence, etc) and some array language concepts, but it is far more of a calculator than a programming language.

    But it's a good arbitrary-precision calculator! And if you're still interested in trying it, maybe check out this thing I made. It's an... Ivy programming environment?... that lets you run Ivy scripts and see the results inline. (Ivy's repl is... very primitive, and has to be wrapped by something like readline. Russ Cox uses 9term to get around this; self-modifying programs are my preferred approach.)

    https://github.com/ianthehenry/privy

    My frustration with Ivy led me to look into other array languages, trying to find one that 1) used English words instead of cryptic symbols and 2) worked. And I really couldn't find any! Someone should do something about that. :)

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