All you need is function

March 26, 2017 • ☕️ 5 min read

Functional programming in javascript is a thing. There are many blog posts, videos, courses about. People spread ideas about immutability, composition, pure functions, recursion, (paste any hypeword you want). I think all these intentions are not strong enough. We should go deeper and start using only functions in our code.

Boolean operators

The basic blocks we need are boolean operations: AND and OR.

const and = (...args) => {
  let z
  args.every(k => (z = k, k))
  return z

How it works. Variable args is array of two elements (operands). The every method calls callback on each element in the array until callback returns falsy value. Let’s take a look at the callback function.

k => (z = k, k)

We put current element in z, and return it. If the callback returns false value for the first operand every stops and function returns the first operand. If not, it continues for the second operand and returns it.

Similar code for OR function, but with some. some stops when the callback returns truthy value.

const or = (...args) => {
  let z;
  args.some(k => (z = k, k));
  return z;

I didn’t find nice functional way to obtain similar behavior. But I swear before the god of functionality it is the last time I use return or let.


Javascript has a handy ternary ? : operator for branching. You can replace it with a && b || c trick. We can implement it with function.

const tern = (x, k, j) => or(and(x, k), j)

Notice. The difference between this function and a && b || c expression is that in the function all the arguments will be evaluated before function call, but in the expression c evaluation can be skipped if a && b is truthy. This issue can be avoided by using function (and we love functions).

The Datum

For holy functional programming we need immutable functional data Grail. I offer you a pair. Pair contains two elements: the head and the tail. And, of course, pair is function:

const pair = (a, b) => x => tern(x, a, b);

This function creates clojure with arguments and returns new function, that can be used to obtain values (head and tail) from the pair.

const head = x => x(true)
const tail = x => x()

We can use it this way

const numbers = pair(1, 2)
head(numbers) // => 1
tail(numbers) // => 2

Empty pair is the pair which has falsy elements.

const empty = p => and(!head(p), !tail(p))

Notice. This doesn’t work with falsy values properly. I choose this for simplicity.

The most interesting part: we can create lists based on pair. List is the pair which head is the first value and the second element is the pair which head is the second element and so on.

This code represents a list with range from 1 to 3. Empty pair shows the end of the list.

pair(1, pair(2, pair(3, pair())))

We need helper for creating ranges of numbers.

const range = (min, max) => tern(min < max,
                                 () => pair(min, range(min + 1, max)),
                                 () => pair())

Notice. In tern I use function and then what tern returns. This prevent evaluation of the third argument if the first if it truthy.

FYI. Pairs can also be used for building trees.

List iteration

The Simplest function for a list is the each. It takes the elements one by one and call fn with it.

const each = (x, fn) => tern(empty(x),
                             () => pair(),
                             () => (fn(head(x)),
                                    each(tail(x), fn)))

map function is also one of the most used tools in our programs.

const map = (x, fn) => tern(empty(x),
                            () => x,
                            () => pair(fn(head(x)),
                                       map(tail(x), fn)))

What we do when we accumulated value from the list? We use reduce!

const reduce = (x, fn, i) =>
       () => i,
       () => tern(tail(x),
                         fn(i, head(x))),

And of course we want to filter output.

const filter = (x, fn) => tern(empty(x),
                               () => x,
                               () => tern(fn(head(x)),
                                          () => pair(head(x), filter(tail(x), fn)),
                                          () => filter(tail(x), fn))

Or maybe reverse whole list

const reverse = x => reduce(x, (a, d) => pair(d, a), pair());

Finally it will be nice to have toString and print functions.

const toString = x => '<' + reduce(tail(x), (a, b) => a + ', ' + b, head(x)) + '>'
const print = x => console.log(toString(x))

Check it

const sum = (a, x) => a + x;
const even = x => x % 2 === 0
const odd = x => x % 2 !== 0
print(range(1, 10))                    // <1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9>
print(filter(range(1, 10), odd))       // <1, 3, 5, 7, 9>
print(filter(range(1, 10), even))      // <2, 4, 6, 8>
print(map(range(1, 10), x => x*2))     // <2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18>
print(reverse(range(1, 10)))           // <9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1>


Function is a powerful tool that can do anything you want in your code. With functional programming, your code becomes more readable, has less errors and is easy to maintain. Your product gathers more money. Your open source library collects more start on github.

Real conclusion

Functions is a powerful tool that complements other language features. Functional programming has advantages and disadvantages as any other paradigm. Use any tool properly with reason and you’ll achieve more. And, please, don’t use the code from this post in production.

If you have any questions or want to discuss this text, please reach me in twitter.