The Beginning of Scala Journey 2

These are my notes for the Principles of Reactive Programming course. The first part of this article includes my back-story of learning Scala. The second — some interesting ideas that I have learned from the first week of the course.

The Beginning

Why 2 in the article title? And where was the first? Good questions.

It was a long time ago since I was developing something using Scala. This is a really amazing programming language which provides you flexibility to write complex programs for almost anything. I really love Scala, for me it was like moving to the next level after Java. This reminds me of a xkcd comics, probably, the closest example that I can think about.

It is time for me to refresh my memories and learn something cool about that awesome language. But first, let me give you some background.

It was March of 2013. And my first course on Coursera: Functional Programming Principles in Scala. The same year I participated in Principles of Reactive Programming course. Worth noting that I got the highest score in both. The courses are really interesting, even if you do not know neither Java nor Scala, you can apply in Coursera to learn some principles of functional and reactive programming. I began to develop more on Scala, but I did not focused on it much. So eventually, I moved to another field — computer vision. But that is a story for another time.

Several weeks ago I was thinking, why not to participate in those courses again? Actually, this is a good point, since new sessions of the courses provide new materials. Especially, there are new programming assignments. And because of that, learning the courses the second time will not be boring. The bad thing is, I was a bit late for the second session of the Principles of Reactive Programming course. The good thing, I applied to the course some time ago, I just did not have time to do the course tasks. Besides, I have access to the course materials and programming assignments. I can even send the assignments via an automatic checking system (I have already tested that). Eventually, things are not bad after all. Yes, I will not receive a grade, but who cares? I just need to refresh my memories.

I have a plan now of how to keep all things that I have learned in one place — blog. If you want to understand something, try to explain that to someone else. This is a modified version of a brilliant quote from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams: “If you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind.”

ScalaCheck and yield

The one thing that you need to always keep in mind when you write on Scala is there are many implicit things. And by implicit I mean not just a language construction. You need to know language perfectly to produce not only an efficient code, but error free too.

The first week of the Principles of Reactive Programming course presented an awesome library — ScalaCheck. Its author provides an exhaustive documentation on it: ScalaCheck User Guide.

I want to highlight a part for generating test data in ScalaCheck.

But first, I want to start from yield. From the documentation, we can see that this is just a syntactic sugar for flatMap and map. For example,

for(x <- c1; y <- c2) yield {...}


c1.flatMap(x => => {...}))

Funny moment is that you can write a class as below:

class MapExample[T](val base: List[T]) {
  def map[V](f: T => V): MapExample[V] = new MapExample(

and call it using for-expression:

val me = new MapExample(List(1, 2, 3))
for {
  v <- me
} yield v + 1

even if it does not make much sense, because for { v <- me } construction means for each v from me. You can remove base from MapExample class, write def map[V](f: T => V) = 1 and still successfully compile and run the code.

Lets go back to the ScalaCheck. I want to write a simple test case for it. It will check base equivalence after yield and map.

class MapExample[T](val base: List[T]) {
  def map[V](f: T => V): MapExample[V] = MapExample(

  override def toString: String = base.toString()

object MapExample {
  def apply[T](base: List[T]) = new MapExample[T](base)

object MapExampleSpecification extends Properties("MapExample") {
  type T = MapExample[Int]

  val generator: Gen[T] = for {
    l <- arbitrary[Int]
    v <- oneOf(const(MapExample(Nil)), generator)
  } yield MapExample(l :: v.base)

  implicit lazy val arbT: Arbitrary[T] = Arbitrary(generator)

  property("map example") = forAll { a: T => => v * 2).base == (for {v <- a} yield v * 2).base

We need to provide a generator for MapExample and add an Arbitraryimplicit value for this type. The generator above is based on Int. We can rewrite it using List:

val generator: Gen[T] = for {
  l <- arbitrary[List[Int]]
} yield MapExample(l)

This will also include empty lists.

If you check the source code of the Gen class, you will see that it implements a map function too. Good luck trying to understand of how the code works without knowing the result of the yield production.

Sometimes Scala seems like a very difficult programming language. However, there is no reason not to get big advantages:

  • Obtaining the same performance as in Java (or even better in some cases).
  • Writing 2-3 times less code compared to Java.

Source code

The source code is available on github under MIT License.