Asteroid: The Programming Language

Documentation PyPI Project Page Try it! GitHub Repository

Asteroid is a modern, general-purpose programming language designed from the ground up with the user in mind. Its expressive syntax is easy to learn and seamlessly supports procedural, functional, and object-based programming. Its novel approach to pattern matching provides new solutions to old programming problems.

Here are some example programs that highlight various aspects of Asteroid.

Hello, World!

Simple things are simple. Here is the ‘‘Hello, World!’’ program written in Asteroid,

load system io.
io @println "Hello, World!".

Imperative Programming is Straightforward

Imperative programming in Asteroid should seem familiar to anybody who has some programming experience in languages like Python or JavaScript. Intuitive structure definitions and standard list notation makes it easy to create the data structures your program needs. Here is a program that prints out the names of persons whose name contains a lower case ‘p’,

load system io.

-- define what persons look like

structure Person with
   data name.
   data age.
   data gender.

-- define a list of persons

let people = [
    Person("George", 32, "M"),
    Person("Sophie", 46, "F"),
    Person("Oliver", 21, "X")

-- print names of persons that contain 'p'

for Person(name:".*p.*",_,_) in people do
  io @println name.

In the for-loop we pattern-match Person objects and then use regular expression match on the name.  The output of this program is,


A Functional Programming Approach to Function Definitions

Asteroid supports functional programming style pattern matching on the arguments of a function.
When a pattern matches the corresponding function body is executed. Here is a Quicksort implementation that demonstrates this functionality. We see three distinct patterns (indicated by the with keyword) each with their own implementation of the corresponding function body,

-- Quicksort

load system io.

function qsort
    with [] do -- empty list
        return [].
    with [a] do -- single element list
        return [a]. 
    with [pivot|rest] do -- head-tail operator
        let less=[].
        let more=[].
        for e in rest do  
            if e < pivot do
                let less = less + [e].
            else do
                let more = more + [e].

        return qsort less + [pivot] + qsort more.

io @println (qsort [3,2,1,0]).

The last line of the program prints out the sorted list returned by the Quicksort. The output is,


Higher-Order Programming

Asteroid seamlessly supports functional programming style higher-order programming. Here is a program that creates a list of alternating positive and negative ones,

load system io.
load system math.

let a = [1 to 10] @map(lambda with x do math @mod(x,2))
                  @map(lambda with x do 1 if x else -1).

io @println a.

The list constructor [1 to 10] constructs a list of values [1, 2,...,10]. The first mapturns this list into the list [1,0,1,...0] and the second call to map turns that list into the list [1,-1,1,-1,...,-1].

Pattern Reuse

One of the novel aspects of Asteroid is the ability to reuse patterns. The following program defines two functions that have to deal with values over the same domains. We can define patterns that describe these input values very precisely and then use these patterns in both functions,

-- patterns that define both positive and negative integers
let Pos_Int = pattern (x:%integer) if x > 0.
let Neg_Int = pattern (x:%integer) if x < 0.

-- define a function that computes the factorial recursively
-- Note: factorial is not defined over negative values
function fact
    with 0 do
        return 1
    with n:*Pos_Int do
        return n * fact (n-1).
    with *Neg_Int do
        throw Error("factorial undefined for negative values").

-- define the sign function that produces a 1 if the input >= 0
-- and -1 otherwise.
function sign
    with 0 do
        return 1
    with *Pos_Int do
        return 1.
    with *Neg_Int do
        return -1.

Object-Oriented Programming in Asteroid

Asteroid supports OO style programming. Here is a program based on the dog example from the Python documentation. This example builds a list of dog objects that all know some tricks. We then loop over the list and find all the dogs that know to ‘fetch’.

load system io.
load system type.

structure Dog with

  data name.
  data tricks.

  function add_trick 
    with new_trick:%string do
      this @tricks @append new_trick.

  function __init__  -- constructor
    with name:%string do
      let this @name = name.
      let this @tricks = [].


let fido = Dog "Fido".
fido @add_trick "play dead".
fido @add_trick "fetch".

let buddy = Dog "Buddy".
buddy @add_trick "sit stay".
buddy @add_trick "roll over".

-- print out all the dogs that know how to fetch
for (Dog(name,tricks) if tostring(tricks) is ".*fetch.*") in [fido,buddy] do
    io @println (name+" knows how to fetch").

What is perhaps striking in the for loop is that rather than searching through the list of tricks for a “fetch” trick for each dog match at a loop iteration, we cast the list of tricks as a string and then use regular expression matching on it to see if it contains a “fetch” trick. The output is,

Fido knows how to fetch

You can try Asteroid without installing anything in our cloud-based Asteroid installation (see ‘Try it!’ below) or you can install Asteroid on your machine via ‘pip’ (see the PyPI Project Page below).


Open source projects cannot succeed without the hard work and commitment of the contributors that make it happen,

Ariel Finkle
Calvin Higgens
Christian Tropeano
Lutz Hamel
Oliver McLaughlin
Theodore Henson
Timothy Colaneri

Documentation PyPI Project Page Try it! GitHub Repository