Funktio-ohjelmointi (syksy 2003)

In English (especially for Foreign Students)

As software becomes more and more complex, it is more and more important to structure it well. Well-structured software is easy to write, easy to debug, and provides a collection of modules that can be re-used to reduce future programming costs. Conventional languages place conceptual limits on the way problems can be modularised. Functional languages push those limits back.

-- John Hughes: Why Functional Programming Matters

In its simplest form a von Neumann computer has three parts: a central processing unit (or CPU), a store, and a connecting tube that can transmit a single word between the CPU and the store (and send an address to the store). I propose to call this tube the von Neumann bottleneck. The task of a program is to change the contents of the store in some major way; when one considers that this task must be accomplished entirely by pumping single words back and forth through the von Neumann bottleneck, the reason for its name becomes clear.


Surely there must be a less primitive way of making big changes in the store than by pushing vast numbers of words back and forth through the von Neumann bottleneck. Not only is this tube a literal bottleneck for the data traffic of a problem, but, more importantly, it is an intellectual bottleneck that has kept us tied to word-at-a-time thinking instead of encouraging us to think in terms of the larger conceptual units of the task at hand. Thus programming is basically planning and detailing the enormous traffic of words through the von Neumann bottleneck, and much of that traffic concerns not significant data itself but where to find it.

-- John Backus: Can Programming Be Liberated from the von Neumann Style? A Functional Style and Its Algebra of Programs, CACM 21(8), 1978

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