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Paradigm(s) functional
Designed by BMO
Appeared in 2018
Dimensions two-dimensional
Computational class Turing complete (SKI-calculus)
Major implementations Functoid
Influenced by Befunge, Lambda calculus
File extension(s) .f

There's no reason to give a formal definition for the lambda calculus here, instead I will showcase some of the internal definitions that functoid uses and how they can be used to do arithmetic. If you're not familiar with DeBruijn notation, you should probably check it out (for example here) because this explanation will make use of it - however for clarity xN will be used instead of N.

Internally functoid has no types to represent Booleans, numbers, characters or even strings. Any expression is defined in terms of lambda terms, please refer to the Commands section for how logic is defined. Characters are just another representation of integers (modulo 128 and converted to ASCII), numbers are defined as Church numerals:

  • Zero is: λλx1
  • The successor function is: λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1))

Now every other number N gets constructed by applying N times the successor function. For example 2 would be (succ (succ 0)) which can be expanded and simplified:

  1. succ (λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) λλx1)
  2. succ λλ(x2 (λλx1 x2 x1))
  3. succ λλ(x2 (λx1 x1))
  4. succ λλ(x2 x1)
  5. λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) λλ(x2 x1)
  6. λλ(x2 (λλ(x2 x1) x2 x1))
  7. λλ(x2 (λ(x3 x1) x1))
  8. λλ(x2 (x2 x1))

As you can see in step 4 we arrive at an expression (succ X) and by definition of the number 2 we can infer that 1 == λλ(x2 x1), probably you notice the pattern that N is λλ(x2 (…(x2 x1)…)) with x2 repeated exactly N times.

All built-ins that work with numbers in functoid work like this and this is the reason that programs can be quite slow, it also implies that there are no negative numbers by default. Although you can simply define them how you want and work with your own definitions (you can find an example here on how to do so).

The first program

The interpreter internally keeps track of one single function and consecutively applies new expressions to that function. Apart from that it stores the current position and travel direction that the pointer moves next. At the beginning the internal function is the identity function (λx1), the position is (0,0) (top-left) and the pointer will move to the right.

So the program 1@ would simply apply 1 (as we saw in the previous section this is λλ(x2 x1)) to the identity function which should give us 1 back, then it moves one to the right and will terminate (@ terminates the program).

Let us run that program (-v flag prints the steps and -e let's you specify the source via command-line):

$ functoid -ve "1@"
(0,0) '1' [R]
(1,0) '@' [R]

Final expression: λλ(x2 x1)    [Church numeral: 1]

At the end of the program the current function is printed to stderr and if it evaluates to a Boolean (see Commands for the definition used) or Church numeral that will be displayed.

Of course you can take user-input as well: When the interpreter is invoked all command-line arguments get parsed (you can input either lambda-terms or shortcuts for numbers) and pushed to a stack. The command $ will pop one argument and apply it to the current function (note how v>^< alter the flow of the program unconditionally):

$ cat succ.f
v@ <
$ functoid examples/succ.f 1

Final expression: λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1))

It's not surprising that this returns the successor function, since the only functions that get applied are + and $ (which evaluates to 1).

Hello, World!

You might ask how you would use numbers larger than 9 without doing a lot of additions, that's where " comes into play. This special control character delimits multi-digit numbers which get applied once they're read, characters <>^v@? still work inside delimited numbers and everything else gets converted to their ASCII code and used as base10 "digit" - for example "abc" which has corresponding codes of 97,98,99 is converted to 10779.

One thing to note is that by default (-n flag disables this) the commands ;,. will clear the current function by overriding it with the identity function and print the current function (only if it evaluates to the corresponding "type"). Here's a simple way to write a "Hello, World!" which makes use of this ability to evaluate multiple functions sequentially:

$ functoid -qe '"H","e","l","l","o",","," ","W","o","r","l","d","!",@'
Hello, World!

Lambda Calculus REPL

The fact that everything internally is handled as lambda terms allows us to code up a REPL for the lambda calculi in just three characters:

$ cat examples/lc-repl.f

This demonstrates how user input (either ~ or by command-line arguments) are parsed and for the first time we see how the pointer simply wraps around whenever it would move out of the source code. The character ~ asks the user for input (without printing to the screen), parses it* (you can either use \ or λ as lambda) and applies it to the current term:

For clarity pressing Enter is highlighted with :

$ functoid examples/lc-repl.f
\\\(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) ⏎
λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1))
1 ⏎
λλ(x2 x1)
\\\(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) (\\x2 x1) ⏎
λλ(x2 (x3 x1))

Note: The spaces between for example x2 and ( are mandatory, they denote function application.

You can also run it with the -n flag such that : won't clear the current expression, this allows to successively apply the lines:

$ functoid -n lambda-repl.f
\\(x2 (x2 x1)) ⏎
λλ(x2 (x2 x1))
\\\(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) ⏎
λλλ(x2 (x2 (x3 x2 x1)))
1 ⏎
λλ(x2 (x2 (x2 x1)))

* It allows all commands that define an expression, eg. 1,T,S etc.


By default functoid is lazy which means it won't evaluate (β-reduce) the sometimes huge expression which is good. Not only would it be very inefficient but some expressions don't simplify to a stable normal form. Let's try this:

functoid -e "WWW@"

Final expression: ^C

It won't terminate and you'll have to kill it with Ctrl+C (that's the ^C you can see). The character r will override the current expression with the identity function, so let's do that before terminating and see what happens:

functoid -e "WWWr@"

Final expression: λx1

This time it terminates, that's because functoid only ever evaluates stuff if it really needs to (in fact try running the first version with the -q flag and see what happens). However if you don't like this behaviour you can force evaluation at each step with the -f flag - meaning functoid -qfe "WWWr@" wont' terminate.

Control flow

Though there's not really a need for control flow other than recursion, there's still the possibility of modifying the direction of the instruction pointer conditionally like in Befunge. The reflectors | and _ force evaluation of the current term and iff it evaluates to false (this is the same as 0) to down (for |) and right (for _) and to the opposite direction in the other case.

Let's use this behaviour to program a truth machine - meaning a program that takes a Boolean and prints 0 if it is false and otherwise produces an infinite stream of 1s:

$ cat examples/truth-machine.f
$ functoid -q examples/truth-machine.f F
$ functoid -q examples/truth-machine.f T

Explanation: First the program applies $ the command-line argument, moves on to the next character _ and this will happen:

  • if the argument was false the pointer gets set to right, . prints the current expression (false as an integer is 0) and aborts with @.
  • in the other case it gets set to left and wraps around, follows v and <, resets the expression with r, applies 1, prints it with ., prints a new-line with p. And this will continue because it wraps around.

As you probably noticed _ (and it's the same with |) didn't reset the current expression, this is helpful because it allows to conditionally do something in the case of 0 and otherwise follow a different flow which could for example be used as an alternative for the base case of some kind of recursion.

Modifying the source

OK, let's be honest the previous example for a truth machine was kind of boring in the sense that this wasn't functional at all. Let us explore the functional way of modifying the source at run-time and introduce some other concepts of functoid, for this we do the same as in the previous example but in case of false input, we'll simply exit without printing anything:

$ cat examples/semi-truth-machine.f
#v%"19"0(i[I$"64")f v
 >r1.p             >>

First the instruction # bridges the next one, so the program applies % next. This function expects 3 arguments, x y and c and once it gets evaluated (except inside nested functions) modifies the character at position (x,y) to c: In our case x will be 19, y will be 0 (that's the ` character betweenfandv) andc` will be whatever the nested expression inside the parentheses will be:

This expression first checks with i whether the argument $ is true and in that case it will evaluate to [ (pred - predecessor) and to I (identity) otherwise. It then applies 64 to one of these functions, evaluating to 63 for true and 64 else which corresponds to characters ? and @ respectively.

By forcing evaluation of the term with f the next character will exit or set the direction randomly to either one of the 4 directions. The rest of the program follows the same idea as in the previous example.

Note: If we wouldn't force evaluation, the modification wouldn't get caught and the program would simply follow v,> and print out 1s in any case!

Recursion combinators

Now suppose we want to check if a Church numeral is even or odd, in a high-level language this could be described by a recursive function like this:

even x
  | 1 >= x    = 0 == x
  | otherwise = even (x - 2)

But this requires a named function such that it is able to recursively call itself, the standard way to solve in lambda calculus is to use the Y-combinator (in Haskell this is fix) and rewrite even as follows:

rec f x
  | 1 >= x    = 0 == x
  | otherwise = f (x - 2)

even = fix rec

Because this can get quite verbose really fast and recursion is a very important concept functoid currently provides three helper functions x,y and z for defining functions like rec, here's a high-level definition of x:

functoid_x baseP baseF recF f x
  | baseP x   = baseF x
  | otherwise = recF f x

So if we apply baseP,baseF and recF to the x combinator we get a exactly a function that we can use with Y and even would simply become:

even = fix $ functoid_x (\x-> 1 >= x) (\x-> x == 0) (\f x-> f (x - 2))

In functoid the base predicate could be G1, the base function is simply Z and the recursive function CB(2[) (or BBCB2[ without parentheses) which gives us the expression x(G1)Z(BBCB2[) for rec. Now we simply need to apply this to Y and have a function to check if a number is even (we can drop the () around G1 by using B once again):

$ functoid -qe "Y(BxG1Z(BBCB2[))$;@" 4
$ functoid -qe "Y(BxG1Z(BBCB2[))$;@" 23

Note: The functions y and z work very similar to x except that their combinators baseP,baseF and recF all expect additional arguments.


At the moment there is no shortage of characters and thus no reason not to have multiple characters with the same meaning, for example * and B are the same - this allows programs to be more expressive.

This is the full list of all commands that functoid currently knows each with a description and possibly the lambda term that gets applied to the current function.

Character Description Lambda term
@ end execution
E functional version of @ @
< set direction left
> set direction right
^ set direction up
v set direction down
? set random direction
_ if term is 0 -> set direction right; else left
| if term is 0 -> set direction down; else up
# jump instruction
$ pop & apply argument
~ ask user for input & apply *
: output value current lambda term
; output value as Boolean
, output value as ASCII (mod 128) char
. output value as number
p print newline
f force evaluation
r replace current expression with id set to λx1
R functional version of r r
% modify x3 x2 x1 -> set (x3,x2) to x1 λλλ[x3,x2,x1]
" number delimiter
(…) apply to current term
)…( apply current term to
B B-combinator λλλ(x3 (x2 x1))
C C-combinator λλλ(x3 x1 x2)
I I-combinator λx1
K K-combinator λλx2
O ω-combinator λ(x1 x1)
S S-combinator λλλ(x3 x1 (x2 x1))
U U-combinator λλ(x1 (x2 x2 x1))
W W-combinator λλ(x2 x1 x1)
Y Y-combinator λ(λ(x2 (x1 x1)) λ(x2 (x1 x1)))
p compose both of binary λλλλ(x4 (x3 x2) (x3 x1))
q compose each of binary λλλλλ(x5 (x4 x2) (x3 x1))
b compose last of ternary λλλλλ(x5 x4 x3 (x2 x1))
x 1 argument recursion λλλλλ(x5 x1 (x4 x1) (x3 x2 x1))
y 2 argument recursion λλλλλλ(x6 x2 x1 (x5 x2 x1) (x4 x3 x2 x1))
z 3 argument recursion λλλλλλλ(x7 x3 x2 x1 (x6 x3 x2 x1) (x5 x4 x3 x2 x1))
T true λλx2
F false λλx1
i if x1 then x3 else x2 λλλ(x1 x3 x2)
n not λ(x1 λλx1 λλx2)
A and λλ(x2 x1 x2)
V or λλ(x2 x2 x1)
X xor λλ(x2 (x1 λλx1 λλx2) x1)
0…9 Church numerals λλx1,λλ(x2 x1),…,λλ(x2 (…(x2 x1)…))
] succ λλλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1))
[ pred λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1)
+ plus λλλλ(x4 x2 (x3 x2 x1))
- sub ** λλ(x1 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x2)
* mult λλλ(x3 (x2 x1))
` pow *** λλ(x1 x2)
= equality (for Church numerals) λλ(x1 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x2 λλλx1 λλx2 (x2 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x1 λλλx1 λλx2) (x1 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x2 λλλx1 λλx2))
L leq λλ(x1 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x2 λλλx1 λλx2)
l le λλ(x1 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) λλ(x2 (x4 x2 x1)) λλλx1 λλx2)
G geq λλ(x2 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) x1 λλλx1 λλx2)
g ge λλ(x2 λλλ(x3 λλ(x1 (x2 x4)) λx2 λx1) λλ(x2 (x3 x2 x1)) λλλx1 λλx2)
Z is zero λ(x1 λλλx1 λλx2)

* see the section Lambda calculus REPL on how inputs are read

** sub a b with a < b will result in 0

*** pow a b only works for a,b > 0