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Simple Elixir Functions

Leonora Tindall 2019/07/20

I’ve been playing around with Elixir, which is a pretty cool language - specifically, I’m reading Programming Elixir 1.6 which is free for anyone with a .edu email address from The Pragmatic Bookshelf.


I enjoy functional programming, so of course the first two functions I made were list operations. First up is reverse(list) (written as reverse/1, meaning it takes one argument), which reverses a list.

# reverse/1
#   Reverse the given list.
def reverse([]), do: []
def reverse(list) do
    reverse(tl list) ++ [hd list]

The first def line here says that if you pass reverse/1 an empty list, the result is an empty list; that’s the base case.

The second def defines the recursive case, in which reverse/1 takes the tail of the list (tl list), reverses it, and appends the first element (hd list).


Another classic FP function is palindrome(list), evaluating to true if the given list is a palindrome (like [1, 2, 3, 2, 1]).

This function takes advantage of the _ special variable to say that any list with exactly one element is automatically a palindrome, as a second base case.

It also uses the |> pipe operator to turn the pruning operation, which turns [1, 2, 3, 2, 1] into [2, 3, 2] for recursion, from a nested function call List.delete_at(tl(list), -1) into the somewhat more readable tl(list) |> List.delete_at(-1).

I also went out of my way to use reverse/1 here, just to say that I did. It’s definitely not the most efficient way to implement this algorithm.

# palindrome/1
#   Return true if the given list is palindromic
#   or false otherwise.
def palindrome([]), do: true
def palindrome([_]), do: true
def palindrome(list) do
    (tl(list) == tl(reverse list)) and palindrome(tl(list) |> List.delete_at(-1))

There’s not much point to this post other than to say - Elixir is fun, and a pretty language!