Function Objects

Function objects (or function pointers) are represented by the type core:Fn<R, A, B, ...>. The parameters to the type correspond to the return value and the parameters of the type. The first parameter, R, is the return value, and any remaining parameters are the parameters to the function. As such, core:Fn requires at least one parameter (which may be void).


As mentioned previously, Basic Storm provides a short-hand syntax for function pointers:

fn(<params>)-><result> f1; // Equivalent to Fn<<result>, <params>>
fn(<params>)->void     f2; // Equivalent to Fn<void, <params>>
fn-><result>           f3; // Equivalent to Fn<<result>>
fn->void               f4; // Equivalent to Fn<void>

For example, both declarations of f1 and f2 are equivalent:

fn->Int           f1;
Fn<Int>           f1;

fn(Int, Int)->Nat f2;
Fn<Nat, Int, Int> f2;

Pointers to Free Functions

Basic Storm allows creating pointers to functions using the & operator. This is illustrated in the example below:

Nat toNat(Int x) {

Nat toNat(Long x) {

fn(Int)->Nat pointer() {
    // Create a pointer to the function that takes an Int as a parameter.
    return &toNat(Int);

Since Storm supports function overloading, Basic Storm needs to deduce which overload of the function it shall create a pointer to. As can be seen above, this is done by specifying the types of the formal parameters of the function in parentheses after the function name, similarly to the function declaration.

In situations where Basic Storm is able to deduce the expected type of the function pointer variable, it is possible to skip the parameter list. For example, in the example above it would be enough to write return &toNat; since the return type of the function is Fn<Nat, Int>. One example where it is not possible is below:

var x = &toNat; // Error: unable to deduce the type of 'x'.

Pointers to Member Functions

Since Basic Storm supports uniform function call syntax (i.e. x.f(y) and f(x, y) are equivalent), it is possible to create pointers to member functions in a similar way:

class MyClass {
    void member(Int x) {}

fn(MyClass, Int)->void pointer() {
    return &MyClass:member;

Note that this approach creates a pointer to the member itself. The pointer is not associated with a particular instance of the object.

If the first parameter to a function is a class- or actor type, it is possible to bind the parameter to a particular value when creating the function pointer. This is done using the . operator as follows:

class MyClass {
    void member(Int x) {}

fn(Int)->void pointer() {
    MyClass cls;
    return &cls.member;

Note that the return type from pointer is now fn(Int)->void and not fn(MyClass, Int)->void. This is because the first parameter is provided by the function object, and does thus not need to be passed as a parameter.

Due to uniform function call syntax, binding the first parameter is not limited to member functions. This can be done also for free functions, as long as their first parameter is a class- or actor type.

As before, in both cases above, it is always possible, and sometimes required, to specify the list of formal parameters in order to disambiguate between different overloads.

Lambda Functions

Lambda functions are anonymous functions that can be created inside other functions easily. A lambda function evaluates to a suitable function object. It has the following structure:

(<formal parameters>) => <expression>;

Where <formal parameters> is a list of formal parameters to the function, and <expression> is the expression that produces the result of the function. As with other parts of Basic Storm, the expression may be a block. For example, a lambda function that adds two numbers can be defined as follows:

fn(Int, Int)->Int x = (Int a, Int b) => a + b;

In situations where Basic Storm is able to infer the type of the pointer, it is possible to omit the types of the formal parameters. For example, when passing the lambda function as a parameter to a function, or when assigning it to a variable with a known type:

Array<Int> x = [1, 2, 3, 4];
// Sort in reverse order:
x.sort((a, b) => a > b);

Lambda functions automatically capture any variables required from the surrounding scope that are used within the lambda expression. Captured values are copied into the lambda function (in fact, they become meber variables in an anonymous object). This means that they behave as if they were passed to a function (i.e. values are copied, classens and actors are references). This is illustrated in the example below, where we utilize that copied local variables are stored inside an anonymous object:

fn->Int makeCounter() {
    Int now = 0;
    return () => now++;

void main() {
    var a = counter();
    var b = counter();; // => 0; // => 1; // => 0

Since Int is a value type, any changes to the now variable in the lambda function created in the makeCounter function are not visible in the original variable, and vice versa. This would not be the case if now was a class- or actor type since they are reference types. We can see the effects in the following example program:

void byvalue() {
    Int now = 0;
    fn->Int lambda = () => now++;

    now++;;  // => 0, the lambda has a separate copy of 'now'
    print(now.toS); // => 1, the call to the lambda does not affect 'now'

void byreference() {
    Nat[] data;
    fn->Nat lambda = () => { data << data.count; data.count; };

    data << 5;;   // => [5, 1] - data is shared by reference
    print(data.toS); // => [5, 1] - data is shared by reference

    data = Nat[];    // This assignment only affects 'data', the reference
                     // inside the lambda is not modified.;   // => [5, 1, 2]
    print(data.toS); // => []

Note: while the this pointer can be captured in lamdba functions, it currently collides with the this pointer of the lambda function. To work around this, it is necessary to create a variable with a different name:

class MyClass {
    Int member;

    void fn() {
        // Will not work, would capture 'this':
        var lambda = (Int x) => member + x;

        // Instead, create a local variable and capture that:
        var me = this;
        var lambda = (Int x) => me.member + x;

Lambda functions are implemented entirely in Basic Storm. The implementation is in the file in the package lang:bs.

Calling Functions

Function objects contain a call member that invokes the function. For example:

var x = (Int a, Int b) => a + b;
print(, 3).toS); // Prints 5

If the function pointer is bound to a function that is associated with a thread other than the thread that called the call member, then a message will be sent to the thread. This means that all parameters will be copied, along with the return value from the function. Note that in contrast to other situations in Basic Storm, this decision is made dynamically by the function object, rather than statically. As such, function objects provide a way to avoid sending messages in some situations:

thread T1;
thread T2;

void toCall(MyClass x) on T1 {}

void intermediary(MyClass x, fn(MyClass)->void ptr) {
    // Will always send a message: this function can
    // be executed on any thread, but 'toCall' needs
    // to run on T1.

    // Might send a message depending on the thread
    // we are running on.;

void main1() on T1 {
    // Calling from here will *not* make a copy when
    // calling through the function pointer.
    intermediary(MyClass(), &toCall);

void main2() on T2 {
    // Calling from here *will* make a copy when
    // calling through the function pointer.
    intermediary(MyClass(), &toCall);

As can be seen in the comments, when main1 is executed, MyClass will be copied once in intermediary when the regular call occurs. However, not when the function pointer is used since it makes a dynamic decision based on the current thread. When main2 is executed, however, both calls in intermediary will send a message and thereby copy MyClass.