small medium large xlarge

Up Front

Functional Programming and Gonzo Engineering

by Michael Swaine

Generic image illustrating the article

I’m an old Lisp hacker, so I’m prejudiced, but it sure seems like functional programming is where a lot of the action is today. That’s certainly true for this magazine. I’d say that this issue has a functional programming focus, but that would be a little misleading. Because every issue we publish these days has at least one article on functional programming topics.

You can use a functional approach in pretty much any language. Take Lua, for example, which is just what Josh Chisholm does in our lead article. It’s a good introduction to functional thinking and benefits, whether or not you know Lua. But the power of the functional approach is still being realized. Also in this issue, Paul Callaghan pushes functional programming to new levels with a deep discussion of dependent types. And Allen Holub is here with a proposal to extend Java to support safer concurrency. That’s not functional programming per se, but it’s related.

And there’s more. Have you ever thought about the pioneers of personal computing and wondered where are they now? The answer a few weeks ago was, they’re in Seattle at Paul Allen’s Living Computer Museum. Paul and Bill threw a big bash and invited an amazing list of computer pioneers to a night at the museum. David Bunnell was there and reports on the festivities. With lots of pictures.

And Gonzo Engineer Steven K. Roberts is back with the final installment in his series on how to pursue a crazy dream for fun and profit. Steven know what he’s talking about: he has made a career of this.

You’ll see a few little changes here and there in the magazine this month, and one big one: We’re introducing a new column by Johanna Rothman and Andy Lester. Johanna and Andy are going to be talking about the non-coding aspects of software development: getting hired, hiring good people, dealing with difficult people, and generally prospering and thriving in your work. Although they know a lot about these things—check out the books they’ve written—they aren’t going to lecture you and give you cookbook instructions. Rather, they’ll discuss the issues you face and let you see some of your options so that you can make informed decisions that fit your particular situation.

One other thing: We’ve been polling you on whether you’d be willing to pay something for PragPub. We’d love to keep giving the magazine away, but it’s just not sustainable. The answer seems to be, “Yes—something.” So we’re soon going to be asking you to pay a little something for PragPub. We’re still nailing down the details, and the system won’t be everything we want immediately. We’ll continue to tweak it based on your feedback. Because you’re the boss. Particularly if you’re paying us.