Defining Functions

 

Programs

     w In Lisp programs are made up of interrelated functions.

     w A function is a short piece of code to accomplish a specific task.

     w The basic idea of a function in mathematics is that a function has zero or

          more input values and one or more output values.  The actual output

          value(s) produced depend directly on the input values.  We say that the

          output is a function of the input.

 

Example

     w In mathematics the function name is followed by a left parenthesis, followed by

          the input values separated by commas, followed by a right parenthesis.  Thus,

          mult(2,4) would be the equivalent of 2 x 4.

     w  In Lisp the right parenthesis comes first and there are no commas to separate the

          input values.  Thus:  (mult 2 4). 

          Historical Note: This way of designating a function and its arguments is a form of

          prefix notation, a variation of Polish notation (so named in honor of Polish

          logician Jan Lukasiewicz), and is called Cambridge Polish notation.

 

Parameters

     w  When defining a function in a programming language, we refer to the arguments

          with which the function will be called as formal parameters, formal arguments,

          or sometimes simply parameters.

 

defun

     w  In Lisp, a user-defined function is specified with the built-in macro, defun.

     w  The general format is:

                    (defun <function-name> (<parameter-list>) <function-body>)

     w  Notice that the parameters are enclosed within parentheses.  If there are no

          parameters, that is indicated with a set of empty parentheses.

     w  <function-body> is Lisp code which specifies how to calculate the output

           value(s) from the input value(s).

     w  Example 1:

       (defun mult1 (multiplicand multiplier)

         (* multiplicand multiplier))

     w  Example 2:

             (defun mult2 (x y) (* x y))

 

Saving

     w Functions can be defined in Lisp by simply typing a function definition while in

          Lisp's interactive mode.  But these definitions are lost as soon as one exits from

          Lisp. 

     w A better way to define functions is to place function definitions into a file using

          an editor, and then load them into Lisp.

 

Assignment:

1. Try out both Examples 1 and 2.  First define each function.  Then try

    out various input values to see if they give the correct answer.

2. Define and test add3num, which takes 3 numbers as input values and sums

    them up.

3. Define and test prodtriple, which takes 2 numbers, x and y, and returns

    the value: 3xy.