[Haskell-cafe] Mutable arrays
jonathanccast at fastmail.fm
Wed Feb 6 21:16:24 EST 2008
On 6 Feb 2008, at 5:17 PM, Jeff φ wrote:
> IO(U)Arrays are only one variant of mutable Array, there are also ST
> which are often preferred.
> I should have worded my question better. The MArray interface is
> implemented in both the ST and IO monad. A state monad seems like
> a logical place for mutable arrays. However, I don't understand
> the motivation for implementing it in IO. Were mutable arrays
> added to IO because it would be difficult to write code that does
> both IO and manipulates arrays otherwise?
As I understand it, the reasons are roughly as follows:
(a) The ST monad is a fairly clever hack, and is some years (4 or 5?)
younger than IO.
(b) You can't have an ST-mutable array as a global variable, but you
can do this with IO. It's ugly, but some libraries are rumored to
require it (see the discussion in http://haskell.org/haskellwiki/
(c) In particular, libraries that need to do I/O and/or FFI are
rumored to be particularly in need of top-level mutable state, so
it's natural to combine the two (or three).
(d) It's very difficult to combine monads. Clean's uniqueness types /
can/ be combined (as could arbitrary state monads). In general, IMHO
what you normally want when combining monads is their coproduct. A
general coproduct is quite ugly, but it simplifies nicely in
particular cases. Clean, by restricting the problem to combining
uniqueness-type-based state monads, can combine monads more easily
than Haskell can in the general case. 15 years ago, when these
decisions were made, it seemed easier to have a single monad.
(e) To a certain extent, IO is the monad in Haskell for `everything
other languages can do that we can't'. That's just the nature of the
beast; the name IO is simply taken from the most prominent example.
So IO's mandate is to do everything C can do better.
(f) Some of use consider the IO monad (and mutable arrays in general)
deprecated for precisely this reason; the rest seem to want C with a
nicer syntax. They use IO, we try to avoid it entirely.
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