Making Functional Programming Practical: Okasaki for Dummies

For the past few months, I’ve been working with Planet OS creating data access and search tools for global environmental sensing.

As part of this work, I had the pleasure of talking to a group at Intertrust about functional programming. Part of the fun was the audience: programmers and non-programmers. I wanted to help both groups understand functional programming and why it’s a powerful alternative to traditional models.

Planet OS has posted the video of the talk and I recommend it for folks interested in understanding what functional programming is and how it works.

This talk is very high-level and filled with pictures. It should be a good introduction to this important concept regardless of your programming background.

Some more notes and the slides, below…

The star of the show is the persistent data structure. This is the magic bullet that transforms functional programming from academic curiosity to practical tool. While many have been involved in the development of the modern array of persistent data structures (including Intertrust’s own chief scientist, Robert Tarjan), the tipping point was the publication of Chris Okasaki’s thesis, “Purely Functional Data Structures.” And that gives this talk its subtitle, “Okasaki for Dummies.”

You can view the slides on slideshare here: