Beyond Hello World

A quick primer on lists and iterators, try to keep up, this is basic stuff, and fairly trivial.

object HelloWorld {
   def main(args: Array[String]) {
       val numbers = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
       numbers foreach printme
   def printme(item: Int){
       println(f"This is the number $item")

‘object’ is more-or-less the same as ‘class’ in Java

‘def’ is a method.

An object has to have a main method to be executable, just like in Java.

‘val’ declares a variable, unlike Java the type appears later instead of as a first keyword in the declaration. The type is also optional, and if shown appears after a colon symbol.

‘numbers foreach printme’ iterates over the numbers, and for each it calls ‘printme’ with the element of the List (in this case, an integer).

The println call is a bit different to Java. the letter before the string tells the compiler to work some magic. ‘f’ turns it into a ‘printf’ style string, which although isn’t quite the same it should be obvious that it’s crafting the string at runtime using available values.

There is an ‘s’ variant of strings too, which is the same as ‘f’. The difference is that ‘f’ allows printf declarations to follow the variable names to force formatting, such as decimal places with numbers.

The other options are ‘raw’ which removes the need to escape slashes, and it’s also possible to extend the string interpolation transformations with custom types.

More information can be found here:

Iterators in Scala are decendents of TraversableOnce, which as the name suggests ultimately means that you can only use them once. You can get around this by duplicating the iterator before using it. This does not mean that you can only use a list once! The following is utterly valid and works perfectly:

       val numbers = List(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
       numbers foreach printme
       numbers foreach printme
       numbers foreach printme

As expected, this will print the list three times.

The Basics

The Scala types

The ten basic types in Scala are:

  • Byte

  • Short

  • Int

  • Long

  • Float

  • Double

  • Boolean

  • Char

  • String

  • Object

These are declared with var and val and they aren’t quite primitives in the same sense as in Java. I think for the most part these are too dull to discuss, they map more-or-less directly to their Java equivalents. String and Char are UTF-8 just like Java, and the numeric values are standard issue. Unlike Java you don’t have a primitive ‘int’ and an object ‘Integer’ - they are the same in Scala and you can forget about converting or parsing or boxing/unboxing these values. They just work.

Declaring a variable as Var causes it to be mutable and possible to change or reassign the variable, whereas using val makes it immutable. Use ‘val’ wherever possible is considered by many to be good general advice, in the same way that ‘final’ is tacked onto the start of variable declarations in Java but without the insane verbosity this brings.

Of course, Object is a special.

Unit also requires some discussion.


How to explain predef: it’s an implicit static import of certain libraries. How to better explain this: you don’t need to type java.lang in front of things, or fully name scala.Int to use it, and the same is true for some other package names because they have already been pulled in by scala.Predef for you.

Apparently, there’s a lot of good learning to be had by reading the code for this object, and maybe one day I’ll get round to it. Life is too short.


We can change the simple example to include a function. Scala is a functional language if you didn’t know that already. It’s also has imperative language features but that’s not why you are exploring Scala instead of just learning the functional aspects of Java 8 such as lambdas.

To include a function we declare it with ‘def’ and use it by name.

   def printme(item: Int){
   def message(item: Int) = {
       s"Hey $item"

What is the difference between these two declarations? An equals sign between the function signature and body, and a String that’s returned without a return statement. The println now calls the function. Our first function, and it works as expected. A massive over-simplification, but it’s good enough for now.

To put it another way: the first ‘def’ is more like a method, and the second is a parameterised function. Our method doesn’t return anything, but a function must resolve to a value - in this case a string with the integer value inserted.

It’s even possible to remove the curly braces from the message function, because Scala doesn’t need unnecessary punctuation, although it’s considered bad form to omit them when the function has side effects. Our function does not, so a cleaner version might be

   def somefunction(item: Int){
   def message(item: Int) = s"Hutch likes the number $item"

Another simple function

This one takes two Int values and returns the higher value.

def max (a:Int, b:Int) = if (a>b) a else b 

Again, note the lack of an explicit return statement, and no curled braces. Also note that despite type inference in Scala we still have to add them to function parameters otherwise it doesn’t compile. I’m told this is due to the inference being based on declaration-local information rather than a more advanced algorithm such as Hindley-Milner but I’m sure this has benefits, and in some ways it’s comforting to have to add this information as part of developing a solution.


The classic fizzbuzz is far too easy for functional languages, and in Scala yields a solution that is remarkably similar to other languages like Haskell. This is a testament to the power of Scala and how well it has been designed.

def fizzbuzz(i: Int) = {

    def fizz(i: Int) = (i % 3 == 0)
    def buzz(i: Int) = (i % 5 == 0)

    if(fizz(i) && buzz(i)) "fizzbuzz"
    else if(fizz(i)) "fizz"
    else if(buzz(i)) "buzz"
    else i

for (i <- 1 to 50) fizzbuzz(i)

I’m not sure this takes much explaining, and if I did choose to do so I’d be doing little more than walking though the syntax of Scala and the requirements of FizzBuzz, so I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader.

One question that might matter is why use if-else over other constructions. The answer lies in the bytecode generated, which tends to be simpler and more concise with if-else. If you need concrete proof, try disassembling various versions with ‘javap’.